When RJ Barrett visited the Knicks for his workout June 10, the Duke product spent more time than the usual draft prospect, even getting invited to team president Steve Mills’ home to watch the NBA Finals.
Until now, Barrett was a rabid Raptors fan, growing up in a Toronto suburb for part of his childhood.
“I think it’s important people understand how much time we spent with RJ,’’ Mills said at Friday’s press conference introducing Barrett, whom the Knicks selected with the No. 3 pick in Thursday’s draft. “We spent a lot of time when we were in Chicago [at the NBA scouting combine]. We had a chance to meet with his dad. He came and spent 2¹/₂ days. [GM] Scott [Perry] and I took him out to dinner twice.”
One of those dinners was at A-list Italian restaurant Carbone’s in Greenwich Village, where Perry noted Barrett’s affinity for pasta. But one of the key parts of the 2½-day stay was Barrett going to Mills’ home to watch Game 5 of Raptors-Warriors.
“With that particular visit, I wanted him to come in and be part of my family and spend time with me and my wife. It was important to spend quality time together,’’ Mills said. “I wasn’t looking for anything important, but express to him the relationship we’d like to have with the players who play for us.”
If the Knicks had some concerns with Barrett’s college shooting percentages, they loved everything about him off the court. After the draft lottery, the Knicks staged a meeting with Barrett at 8 a.m. and Perry noted he came dressed as dapper as he looked Friday — in a perfect black pinstriped business suit-and-tie. Barrett drew raves for the pink suit he wore on draft night at Barclays Center.
“He came to my apartment to watch the NBA Finals together,’’ Mills said. “We spent a lot of time getting to know each other and understanding that he had the things that we were looking for. We knew him as basketball player. We were looking into who he was as a person and as a competitor. So that was important to us.”
Barrett admitted he could have had a better time at the Mills’ household.
“I was mad that day that the Raptors lost,’’ Barrett said.