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New York Knicks reportedly ‘preferred not to sign RJ Barrett to contract extension’ but ‘had to do something’

It seems that the New York Knicks decision to give RJ Barrett a massive $120 million extension was a reactionary move after the team failed in trading for All-Star Donovan Mitchell and was not evidence of an organizational opinion shift on the young star.

The 2022 NBA offseason for the Knicks will once again be viewed as another failed attempt to land the star player they wanted. While in years past, they weren’t the favorite to secure game-changer talents like Lebron James or Kevin Durant, they had been perceived as the most likely landing spot for three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell. A player they had been rumored to covet for several years. However, despite having the assets to make a deal possible, the Knicks were bested by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Related: Knicks and Celtics are reportedly interested in signing Carmelo Anthony

Earlier in the week, reports came out that suggested talks between the Knicks and Utah Jazz had stalled, and the organization had shifted gears to finalize a long-term extension with Barrett. It was a surprise move that the organization had seemed in no rush to make for the last six months. But, a new report claims that the nine-figure contract the organization gave the 22-year-old was more a reactionary decision to make up for another failed pursuit of a star player.

Some in New York Knicks front office wanted to wait until next summer to re-sign RJ Barrett

new york knicks, rj barrett
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, New York Post NBA insider Marc Berman reported that the Knicks’ plan this offseason was never to give Barrett an extension. In fact, they were actually willing to wait until next summer for the Duke alum to prove that he was worth the money and improve on his breakout season in 2021-2022.

“According to an NBA source, the Knicks would have preferred not to sign Barrett to a hefty contract extension at this moment. They wanted to at least wait until the mid-October deadline to see him at training camp — or even until July 1, when he would have hit restricted free agency.”

Report on Knicks original barrett extension plans
  • RJ Barrett stats (2021): 20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 41% FG, 34% 3PT

Berman claims there has long been a divide on Barrett’s potential. General manager Scott Perry took him with the team’s top pick in 2019, however, the new front office regime led by Leon Rose does not have the same kind of connection to him. And some decision-makers would have preferred to add him in a trade for Donovan Mitchell, rather than re-sign him.

“They didn’t want to pay RJ now, they like RJ, but he’s not one of their guys. The preference was to trade him in a Donovan deal. … If they got Donovan without Barrett in the deal, they weren’t going to pay RJ now.’”

However, when the organization discovered that the Cavaliers jumped into the Mitchell sweepstakes lead and were closing in on the star guard, Berman reports that the team made the move to lock up Barrett to salvage the situation and save face because “They had to do something.” It makes the fact that the Knicks officially announced the signing minutes before the world knew Mitchell was going to Cleveland far less coincidental.

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