On the eve of the Knicks’ first home game in December, swingman RJ Barrett put a positive spin on the game in a fanless Garden.
The third pick in the 2019 draft meant that Knicks opponents would sometimes get up to play in front of a Garden crowd and that had an adverse effect.
“Actually, having no fans could be an advantage,” Barrett said Dec. 26. “I know if I was a competitor, going into the Garden, with all those fans, I would like to have a great game. So going in there without fans actually probably gives us an advantage that way too. “
It has developed that way. The Knicks are 8-6 in their 14 Garden games without crowds. His Tuesday tilt against Golden State kicks off a new version of his local time slot, as 2,000 fans will be allowed in. And some of them might cheer and swoon for arguably the game’s most popular player, Stephen Curry.
However, Barrett has changed his mind. He didn’t like the void despite the Knicks’ record for wins at the Garden, highlighting a season that has gone much better than expected. The Knicks are 15-16 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Barrett even alluded to missing Garden’s old taunts.
“Honestly, I’m happy to have the fans back,” Barrett said when reminded of his December comments. “I’ve been losing them. It’s been great to play at home, but nothing compares to when you have the fans at the Garden, so I’m really excited about that. “
“I think it’s a little bit different in terms of home advantage,” Barrett added. “There are no fans. You’re really just playing basketball. I’ve gotten used to that, but at the end of the day, playing basketball, you want fans. You want to hear cheers, you want to hear boos. Everything that.”
The garden will be only 10 percent full on Tuesday, so it’s unclear how much noise they can make in an arena with a capacity of 19,040 people. Imagine that the fake applause that has been pumped during the 14 games of Garden could be secretly helping the small crowd.
“I think it means a lot to New York,” Barrett said. “It means a huge amount for us to give ourselves that extra boost. I miss the joy and happiness to have the fans there cheering. “
Barrett led the NBA in minutes in January, but Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has cut it, particularly after the Derrick Rose trade. In the last seven games, he averages 26.7 minutes. The Knicks are 4-3 in that span.
In the first 24 games, Barrett averaged 35.1 minutes.
“It was great,” Barrett said. “Whatever the team needs. Whatever the equipment needs, everything is fine. It’s been working for us lately so I’m really happy. “
Julius Randle, within hours of being potentially named All-Star through the coach’s reserve vote, has given assistant coach Kenny Payne some credit for his career year. They were in Kentucky together and Randle said she tried to convince him to come. The Post has reported that Payne initially rejected the Knicks’ proposals.
“Yeah, I definitely tried to convince him,” Randle said. “I sure got excited when I knew it was a possibility. That’s my boy, no one better to have by your side than him. It was definitely a great thing for me that he came here. The relationship I have with him is amazing. It has been well.”