DALLAS — RJ Barrett has been in a shooting slump, bottoming out against the Mavericks on Friday with a three-point, 1-of-9 showing, including a dreadful 1-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Sunday, Barrett will be on the same floor as Cavaliers rookie point guard Darius Garland, whom the Knicks worked out the day before the draft. Sources indicate the Knicks were considering dropping back a few slots to snare Garland but GM Scott Perry pushed through the Barrett pick at No. 3.
Barrett had a blast of a start to his NBA career, but is shooting 31.9 percent from the field his the past five outings, dropping his season’s mark to 40.3.
Maybe the extra heavy minutes are catching up to him or teams have a better scouting report. He’s averaging 36 minutes a night and 16.2 points.
“Even the best players still have bad games, right now in their career,’’ Barrett said in Dallas. “Just something I expected to happen. I like lows because you can only go up from there.”
The lowest moment came when he bricked another two free throws in the final minute. Fizdale made sure to keep him in the game when the Knicks almost blew it from the free-throw line.
“I wanted my kid,’’ Fizdale said. “I wanted him to get over that hump so I left him in there to see if he could overcome it.’’
“[Fizdale] trusts me,’’ Barrett said. “I’m a rookie, what is it, nine games in? There’s always going to be something. Can’t be perfect. I’m really thankful that coach trusts me. I might have a better outcome next time.”
NBA coaches have raved about Barrett. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and Dwane Casey each talked about Barrett looking more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie.
Orlando coach Steve Clifford gave the most concise scouting report when the Knicks visited.
“Great size and feel for the game,’’ Clifford said. “For a younger player what you always look for are physical attributes — which his are exceptional — and then his decision-making, which to me is very good.
He knows when to drive it, he’s got a good feel for where the spaces are, he spins and he can get in areas where there’s not a lot of room. The things that you can’t teach.’’
Clifford says his ability to avoid charges on drives is an undervalued skill.
“When the guy is there, he spins away and goes over there,’’ Clifford said. “That’s a big deal. Those are the guys that have what people say are ‘offensive instincts.’ ”
Though Barrett has come back to earth, he’s still outpacing Garland — the former Vanderbilt point guard who is averaging 8.5 points and 3.6 assists, and shooting 32.5 percent.
Fizdale gave Taj Gibson his first start as a Knick — at center — vs. Dallas to replace concussed Mitchell Robinson, who will miss Sunday’s game, too. It worked out well. Gibson provided grit, 12 points and eight rebounds.
“Just solid,’’ Fizdale said. “He’s just glue. He’s been through so many of these wars. The guys really respect him. [Miami assistant] Ron Rothstein used to say he doesn’t get sick at sea. When it gets tight he’s right there in the trench.”
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