CHICAGO — RJ Barrett had been in a shooting tailspin recently, perhaps the overload of minutes getting to him or sharper scouting reports arriving.
But Barrett blasted that slump away Tuesday with a potent 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds in the 120-102 loss to the Bulls at the United Center. Barrett made 8 of 16 shots, though still struggled from the line where he was 3 of 6.
“I’m just telling you we have a special kid,’’ Fizdale said. “I know with all the suffering we’re going through, one of the true bright lights on this team is RJ Barrett. This kid is just going to keep getting better and he’s so easy to coach and wants to be a great player in this league and not just a great player but a leader.’’
Barrett believes he is blessed to have Fizdale, who has played him 35.3 minutes a night and stuck with him despite a few rough outings.
With Fizdale’s job security of issue after president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry seemingly put him on a 10-game notice after a stern press conference Sunday night, Barrett expressed his joy at being coached by the former Heat assistant.
“Great coach, everybody loves him,’’ Barrett said before the game. “I love him personally. Great guy to be around. We believe in what he has to say. We have to go out on the court and do it. We have to get it done no matter what coach says or what plays he has. We have to execute and get the job done.’’
Entering Tuesday’s game, Barrett’s recent shooting hadn’t helped the cause after his brilliant start. He was shooting just 32.5 percent in his previous six games. His free-throw shooting had plummeted to 44.6 percent.
His shooting for the season had plummeted back to Earth — at 40 percent. Defensively, he’s still sound but looks to be wearing out on offense late in games. That’s why Tuesday was a giant relief.
“It’s the ebb and flow of the season,’’ Fizdale said. “The kid is on people’s scouting report now. It’s time to learn from that and adjust and get easy baskets. The free-throw line I’m not worried about. It’s a work in progress. We’ll get to the point where we’re very comfortable there. Nothing will ever get in his head.”
If this 2-9 start worsens, the fear for Barrett, third pick in the draft, is he gets used to the losing — similar to 2018 lottery pick Kevin Knox last season.
“Personally not really lost except one [season] in AAU,’’ Barrett said. “But it’s basketball. Losing is one of the best teachers. You only go up from here.”
Center Mitchell Robinson has not been ruled out of Thursday’s rematch with Kristaps Porzingis at the Garden as he moves through the concussion protocol. He’s no longer wearing sunglasses and shot before the game, which is one of the tests to pass.