Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports
New York Knicks coach David Fizdale is taking full advantage of his top rookie.
RJ Barrett has seemingly been on the court nonstop through the Knicks’ first seven games of the season. He’s averaged 17.7 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing 36.5 minutes per game so far, and played 40 minutes in the Knicks’ 113-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
Yet it was Fizdale’s decision to put Barrett back into the game with just six minutes left despite the game essentially already being over that turned some heads at Madison Square Garden. Putting the No. 3 overall draft pick back in the game during garbage time can be seen by many as a big risk, especially this early in the season.
Fizdale, though, isn’t having it.
“We got to get off this load management crap,” Fizdale said, via the New York Post. “Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid is 19. Drop it already.”
Barrett looked fine against the Kings, dropping 22 points and five rebounds while shooting 8 of 22 from the field. It marked just the third time he’s scored at least 21 points for the Knicks, too.
To Fizdale’s point, Latrell Sprewell — who played in the league from 1992-2005 for the Golden State Warriors, Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves — did average more than 40 minutes per game four different times throughout his career, and even hit a career-high 43.1 minutes during the 1993-94 campaign when he was 23 years old.
The league, though, was a completely different place back then. And every player is different. There’s no telling if Barrett could handle having to play that frequently longterm.
Nearly every organization in the NBA has embraced the “load management wave” by now, a strategy that wasn’t around even a decade ago. Teams will frequently sit players or restrict their minutes on certain nights — particularly on back-to-backs — in order to ensure they can stay healthy throughout the lengthy 82-game season.
While it can frustrate fans, especially those hoping to see their favorite players play in person, it’s a pretty smart strategy for teams to implement. It can truly make a big difference down the road.
Fizdale, however, clearly isn’t a fan.
And, for what it’s worth, Barrett isn’t concerned about his minutes either.
“What do you think?” Barrett said, via the New York Post. “I’m 19. I’m good. If I felt it wasn’t, I’d tell him.”