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Knicks rookie RJ Barrett working his tail off on the defensive end

RJ Barrett, Knicks

New York Knicks rookie swingman RJ Barrett was not known for his defensive prowess in his one-and-done collegiate season under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University, but the 6-foot-7 shooting guard has been reportedly working hard on that end as the team opens training camp.

The Knicks had their first full practice on Tuesday ahead of their first preseason game against the Washington Wizards next week, with second-year head coach David Fizdale stressing the importance of defense. The 2018-19 Knicks had the fourth-worst defensive rating, which had been addressed in free agency over the summer through the additions of veterans Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris and Wayne Ellington.

Meanwhile, for Barrett, he is trying to be a well-rounded player ahead of his NBA debut.

“I’m working my tail off on the defensive end. I’m just trying to get better there. Coach [Fizdale] always wants a defensive guy on the court, you know?” Barrett said, per Ian Begley of SNY TV:

New York went through an immense roster turnover under team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry in the offseason. They added seven players via free agency in July and before that selected Barrett and fellow Canadian countryman in 6-foot-7 Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis in the second round.

For a team that hemorrhaged points last season, the Knicks should be in better shape to stop opponents this time around, even if it’s a marginal improvement. They also have second-year center Mitchell Robinson and third-year French guard Frank Ntilikina, who is fighting for minutes in the backcourt with fellow lottery picks Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton.