February 15, 2020 | 1:53am
CHICAGO – Knicks rookie shooting guard RJ Barrett talked before Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge about being eager to defend his Duke compadre Zion Williamson.
And he meant it. Williamson got noticeably agitated at Barrett after he was about to leap for another of his patented alley-oop jams. Barrett held Williamson, not letting him leap to another highlight. Williamson was shaking his head at Barrett, grimacing.
Ironically, on the next possession, Barrett allowed Williamson to dunk the ball after he got it inside.
“When he stopped me on that fastbreak, I was kind of like, man, you’re the last person I thought that would do that, but he let me get the next one,” Williamson said. “It’s just brothers messing around.”
Barrett, who finished with a World-team-high 27 points but missed all four of his 3-pointers, explained his aggressive move on the No. 1 pick in the draft who just came back from knee surgery..
“So right before that, I shot a 3 in the corner,’’ Barrett said. “I don’t even know if it was [Zion], but somebody on the court was talking trash and then I missed it. So when I saw him running, I was like, nah, he’s not about to dunk it. “
Williamson finished with 14 points and even bent a rim on one of his tip dunks. But in the final minutes, a full-blown dunk contest broke out and the World Team let Williamson miss three circus attempts.
Barrett, who also had three steals, six rebounds and five assists, clearly played the game with more serious intent. Barrett tore to the hole like it was an NBA game and found little resistance.
“What I did like is he came to compete tonight,’’ his World coach Adrian Griffin said after the World’s 151-131 loss. “I looked at his eyes. He wanted to go after it.’’
Griffin said if the World had held onto the lead, Barrett would’ve been MVP.