RJ Barrett raises Knicks conundrum with righty shooting talk

CHARLOTTE — RJ Barrett is not really lefty.

The Knicks rookie “southpaw” said Wednesday he is “ambidextrous’’ and does almost everything besides shoot a basketball with his right hand, including eating and throwing. Barrett said he’s been told his shooting form looks better with his right hand, too.

“I’m right-handed with everything,’’ Barrett said after morning shootaround at Spectrum Center before the Knicks faced the Hornets. “My mom was lefty. I do a lot of things with both hands. I’ve been told I have a better shooting form with my right, but I’m more comfortable with the left. I started as a kid shooting (with) two hands and gravitated to the left.”

There was concern in scouting reports on Barrett coming out of Duke that he doesn’t have a strong right hand and hence could be guardable in the NBA. He feels he’s proven scouts wrong on not being able to go right.

“I feel both ways I try to make good reads,’’ Barrett said. “I actually like dribbling with my right more – which is weird.‘’

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks dribbles with his right hand.
NBAE via Getty Images

On Monday in Houston, the 19-year-old Barrett showed everything he could be with a blistering 14-point first quarter, slicing to the rim at will and hitting his first two 3-pointers. The No. 3 pick in the draft cooled off, finishing with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting – 2-of-5 from 3 – and five turnovers.

Barrett played on the ball a lot with point guards Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina out due to injury, and in interim coach Mike Miller’s eyes, Barrett’s future still could be as a combo guard.

“He’s able to do both,’’ Miller said. “He’s equally comfortable. He likes the ball in his hands. The hardest guys to guard are guys like Devin Booker. The ball is in his hands then he’s playing off the ball. He’s really difficult to defend. How do you game plan on him? He’s not in one spot. He’s all over the place, coming off handoffs, screens and initiating.’’

In the Knicks’ fantasy world, Barrett could be at that level one day. Barrett hasn’t had a problem getting to the basket. His development as a 3-point shooter is key to whether he evolves into an All-Star. He’s shooting it at 31.1 percent.

The Knicks have not had a quasi-shooting coach since Keith Smart was fired in December along with head coach David Fizdale. Barrett said he mostly confers on shooting technique with his longtime trainer, Drew Hanlen.

Barrett revealed he also had a conversation and shooting session last week with former Knicks sharpshooting All-Star Allan Houston, now an assistant to the GM.

“He was a great shooter,’’ Barrett said. “(He was) telling me to be straight on. I tend to drift a little bit.’’

Barrett was coming along with his 3-point shooting before he sprained his ankle Jan. 16 and missed the next nine outings. Barrett admits he hasn’t been 100 percent since his return Feb. 6.

“I’m getting back there,’’ Barrett said. “When you sprain an ankle, you’re kind of off-balance a bit. I had to work on it.’’

Miller thought Barrett finally looked 100 percent in Houston.

“He went a 20-game stretch before he got hurt where he improved 10 percent on his 3-point shooting from the first 25 games,” Miller said, referring to Barrett’s 36.7 percent shooting from 3 in the 16 games before the ankle injury, up from 30.1 percent in his first 25 games. “That’s a big jump for a young guy. He’s on the right track. The Houston game, he was as healthy as we’ve seen him on how to bounce back. That’s a big part of shooting is having your feet under you and feeling comfortable.’’

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