NEW ORLEANS — RJ Barrett has go the anti-Zion Williamson arsenic acold arsenic durability.
The Knicks won’t look Williamson connected Saturday erstwhile they play the Pelicans, due to the fact that he’s wounded again. In fact, Williamson, the No. 1 prime of the infamous 2019 draught and Barrett’s erstwhile Duke compadre, didn’t play successful the preseason and has not made his 2021-22 debut arsenic he recuperates from close ft surgery.
Williamson has had a litany of ailments. He missed the archetypal 3 months of his rookie twelvemonth with genu issues.
On the flip side, determination is Barrett, the No. 3 prime successful 2019, who played each 72 games past play and runs the level similar a marathon man.
Barrett’s stamina and centrifugal are marvelous. The 6-foot-7 swingman ne'er looks winded, and Knicks caput manager Tom Thibodeau’s bosom keeps increasing fonder.
When The Post asked Barrett pursuing his 20-point fast-break gem Thursday successful Chicago what is the secret, Barrett replied: “You got to beryllium successful signifier to play for Thibs. It’s non-negotiable. It’s what we bash successful practice.’’
If the Knick had won the 2019 lottery and picked Williamson, it’s worthy wondering however helium would person fared nether Thibodeau’s drill-sergeant ways. The Pelicans are present led by rookie manager Willie Green.
According to Bleacher Report, Williamson, who is 6-6, ballooned to much than 300 pounds successful the offseason. Williamson’s value was his lone contented coming retired of Duke. His freakish endowment and spectacular explosiveness are unmatched, but if helium can’t enactment healthy, it’s worthless.
If the top-3 picks from that 2019 draught were redone today, the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (who was taken second) apt would beryllium No. 1, with Williamson No. 2. But it’s hardly a no-brainer since occurrence successful the NBA is based connected health.
“He’ll beryllium each right,’’ Barrett said of Williamson. “He’s specified a peculiar endowment and specified a large quality being. I’m ever pulling for him. He’ll beryllium good. When helium comes back, you guys volition see.’’
Barrett was projected to beryllium a No. 1 prime erstwhile helium and Williamson began their freshman years.
“Everybody’s travel is different,’’ said Barrett, who was ticked helium didn’t marque 1 of the 2 All-Rookie teams. “I cognize who I am. The squad believes successful me. So that’s what I attraction about.’’
The Pelicans are nary longer a marquee hostile nowadays with Williamson retired and Lonzo Ball having been traded to Chicago. Brandon Ingram has emerged arsenic a star, but New Orleans doesn’t look similar adjacent a play-in squad astatine 1-4.
The Pelicans drafted Knicks people Trey Murphy and signed defender Devonte Graham, but until Williamson comes backmost …
“Any squad without him, erstwhile he’s connected the court, it decidedly makes it a batch tougher for sure,’’ Barrett said. “But they’re inactive a bully team, they person a batch of weapons. It’s going to beryllium a bully matchup.’’
Barrett and Williamson don’t look arsenic adjacent arsenic possibly they were during their rookie seasons, but eyebrows were raised past play erstwhile Williamson mentioned Madison Square Garden arsenic his favourite spot to play. The erstwhile Duke powerfulness guardant lit up similar a Christmas histrion erstwhile asked astir The World’s Most Famous Arena. Subsequent reports suggested helium mightiness privation retired of the Big Easy.
Pairing Williamson with Barrett would beryllium imagination combo for the NBA. New Orleans is among the astir amusive cities successful the world, but a mediocre NBA market.
Barrett has paid attraction to Thibodeau’s decree astir the Knicks expanding their gait this season. His shot handling looks tighter, too.
“Just beryllium assertive and beryllium who I am,’’ Barrett said. “Whatever the crippled gives me, that attacking mindset, that’s however I got to play. [My handle] has been a batch better, particularly erstwhile that 1 play erstwhile I got the floater astatine the extremity [in Chicago]. Just being capable to not adjacent bash thing crazy, conscionable to get the defender to determination and get to the rim.’’