RJ Barrett reveals the personal reason he wants to be a Knick


Duke star RJ Barrett has said for weeks his hope is to play for the Knicks. On the eve of the NBA draft, he explained one more reason why.

“It would mean a lot,’’ Barrett said during Wednesday’s draft press conference. “My late grandfather, rest in peace, he was the biggest Knicks fan. He always told me I’d play for the Knicks. So it would mean a lot for me to play for the team.’’

Though he is Canadian, Barrett’s mother, Kesha, is from Brooklyn. His father, Rowan, played for St. John’s and he’s visited relatives in Brooklyn plenty, calling New York “like home.’’

Barrett has even refused to work out for Memphis, which picks second, one spot ahead of the Knicks. The Grizzlies have moved on, as a source confirmed Wednesday they were dealing point guard Mike Conley to Utah to open up a spot for Murray State point guard Ja Morant, leaving Barrett to fall to the Knicks.

The Knicks had Morant higher on their board than Barrett, but will be happy to take the lefty 6-foot-7 swingman sniper out of Duke. The only wild card is if the Knicks get a whopping offer to trade back a notch. Sources believe Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland is on their radar after his workout Wednesday. Nevertheless, it is expected they will play it safe, stay put and select Barrett at No. 3, according to a source.

“My agent and I and my parents, we just decided not to [work out for Memphis],’’ Barrett said. “Not really anything wrong with Memphis. New York is just more where I wanted to be.”

The Knicks love the fact he wants to shine at the Garden.

“It would be great,’’ Barrett said. “I played there once [in December against Texas Tech]. And it was such a crazy environment. The lights are really bright there. Everything is great there.’’

Without a playoff berth for six straight seasons and no guarantee they will strike it rich in free agency, Barrett knows it won’t be easy joining a 17-65 squad. He mentioned free agent Kevin Durant was “a friend.’’ Barrett said he’s seen a Durant video from two years ago in which the injured Warriors star gave a glowing scouting report on Barrett in high school.

“I feel like that would be a challenge that I’m willing to accept,’’ Barrett said of turning the franchise around. “If the Knicks pick me, you give everything you got every game and work my butt off and put them on the winning track.

“I have every goal you could possibly dream of — Rookie of the Year, NBA champion, MVP. I want a Larry O’B[rien] trophy. I want to be a Hall of Famer, everything you could dream of.”

Barrett seemed relaxed during a 25-minute media session, comfortable in his own skin. While Morant played it straight and said he’ll be happy anywhere, Barrett has been brash and bold.

“I’m not ashamed,’’ Barrett said. “I’m not scared or worried. If it doesn’t work out that way, I’m not going to cry about it.”

Barrett admitted there may be tears when his name is called.

“I’m going to be excited to walk across the stage, shake the commissioner’s hand,’’ Barrett said. “I tell everyone this. You’ve never seen me cry, but I’ll cry. I’ll be very emotional.”

Some players would fear playing under the microscope of New York, but he said it’s no issue.

“It’s just media,’’ Barrett said. “I’m fine with it. I’ve dealt with a lot of media and I know the New York media [is] different, for sure. But I’m smart, I’ll be fine. I’ll be good.”

His mother has told him about growing up in New York and she has “great memories.’’ But they haven’t addressed the notion of being a Knick as she’s too nervous.

At his Knicks workout last week, Allonzo Trier and John Jenkins were on hand. Barrett said he’s friends with Trier, who was his host on a recruiting visit to Arizona.

As far as meeting David Fizdale, Barrett said, “He’s just such a cool guy. I liked him. Workout was great. Fizdale is a great guy. Great coach. Everybody loves him. So I feel like it went good.”

Barrett spent some of his childhood in Europe because of his father’s professional basketball career and speaks French.

“I feel growing up in Europe, having different experiences I can talk to anybody in this room,’’ Barrett said. “I’m always a comfortable in every situation and it helps me on the court. I never feel out of place.”

Playing in New Orleans, he said, would be great, too, reuniting with likely No. 1 pick and Duke teammate Zion Williamson, calling him “my best friend.’’

Barrett has been praised for never showing jealousy.

“When my brother is doing great, why am I going to be jealous?’’ Barrett said. “Why am I going to be mad? There was no need. Everybody is trying to sit here like I wasn’t killing. We both did well.’’

Memphis reportedly softened on Morant after he underwent surgery last month. But Morant said Wednesday he was back on the court in a week and will play summer league in July.

“I’m not injured,’’ Morant said.

Barrett didn’t want to be on Beale Street — just Broadway. It is expected to happen officially Thursday.