NBA All-Star break won’t be all fun and games for RJ Barrett

For the next week, RJ Barrett plans to mix business with pleasure.

Yes, he will use the All-Star break to relax, but he also will put in plenty of time on his game, from watching film to refining his shooting mechanics.

“I’m going to be taking some rest, and I’m going to work,” he said.

While the Knicks enter this break hot, having won three straight and five of six to move ahead of the Heat in the chase for the coveted sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Barrett is trying to find his game.

He was in a great place shortly before the turn of the new year, when he suffered a lacerated right index finger in a loss to the Mavericks that cost him two weeks. While Barrett is averaging 19.7 points since returning on Jan. 11, he is only shooting 30.8 percent from 3-point range in that span. His shooting numbers have plummeted in seven February games, down to 39.1 percent from the field. Of late, he’s really struggled in the first half of games, making 18 of 67 shots in his last eight contests, and he has been ice cold from distance, hitting nine of his last 44 attempts. In Wednesday’s win over the Hawks, Barrett was 0-for-6 from 3-point range, with several of them wide-open looks.

The Knicks’ RJ Barrett (9) drives against the Hawks’ Clint Capela (15) on Feb. 15, 2023.
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“I think every year this will happen to me. It’ll happen to a lot of players,” he said. “It’s not anything I feel is out of the ordinary. Just going over the break, watching and going back to my mechanics and basics, getting my reps, I’ll be fine.”

It clearly helps that the Knicks are winning without Barrett being at his best. Earlier in the year, they may not have been able to survive if that was the case. Once he gets going, they may be able to take off even further.

“For me, personally, I just got to keep bringing the energy,” Barrett said. “Even [on Wednesday], I didn’t have the best shooting day, but I was still able to affect the game in different ways. I felt like my energy was infectious out there, especially at the beginning.”

RJ Barrett of the Knicks on the floor after scoring a basket against the Hawks on Feb. 15, 2023.
RJ Barrett of the Knicks on the floor after scoring a basket against the Hawks on Feb. 15, 2023.
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Julius Randle will replace injured Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons in the 3-point shooting competition, the NBA announced on Thursday. Randle will be the first Knick to take part in the event since Steve Novak in 2013. The other contestants are: Jayson Tatum, Kevin Huerter, Tyler Herro, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Damian Lillard and Lauri Markkanen. Randle, shooting 33.8 percent on eight 3-point attempts per game, has the lowest percentage of anyone in the contest.