On a Knicks roster without veterans Derrick Rose (ankle) and Kemba Walker (sitting), Immanuel Quickley‘s development becomes a focal point as New York closes the second half of the 2021-22 season.
As Friday’s 115-100 loss to the Miami Heat served a reminder, though, the 2020 NBA Draft’s No. 25 overall pick out of Kentucky remains a work in progress.
Quickley, who flashed as a rookie, scored seven points on 3-of-7 shooting over 17 minutes during New York’s 14th loss in the past 17 games.
“I think it’s he’s gotten more experience,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau. “I think he went through a period of adjustment this year because of the way the game is called differently. And I think he’s starting to figure that out. So where he was able to draw those fouls, he doesn’t get those calls. So now, he’s going back to being a little more aggressive. I thought, the game before the break, he really played very aggressive and played really well. Last night, unfortunately, it was choppy for him. I think the foul trouble — he didn’t get into a good rhythm yesterday.
“But when I look at his shot making — and he hasn’t shot the ball as well this year as he did last year, he got to the line a lot more, but he has shot the ball well from 3 in the fourth. But obviously, he’s a great free-throw shooter. So I think that’ll come. But I thought our second unit last year, the way they were able to play — even this year, when we had Derrick, Quick and Alec (Burks) on the floor together, they were very effective. They play off each other very well.”
RJ Barrett, as a third-year pro, knows the feeling and echoed Thibodeau’s sentiments.
“I just told him, ‘Just keep being aggressive,'” Barrett said of Quickley. “I think he was aggressive yesterday, and that was good. I mean, I don’t really worry about Quick — Quick’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. He really works on his game, works on his craft. He has the ability to make a lot of different shots. So yeah, I think Quick will be fine.”
Quickley is averaging 9.3 points on 36.9 percent shooting while adding three assists and 2.3 rebounds in 21.2 minutes over 56 games (two starts) this year, an overall decline from his rookie campaign, but he embraces an opportunity arriving down the stretch.
“I feel like that’s where I’m most valuable is being able to do multiple things and I feel like that’s where a lot of guys in the league are valuable,” Quickley said. “Whether it’s being able to play on or off the ball, being able to guard one through four, switch one through four, make shots, that’s a valuable trait to be able to be in the league and be versatile. So that’s what I pride myself on, being able to fit in any system, being able to fit with any teammate. So I feel like that’s what I pride myself on.”
“I’ve learned so much,” Quickley added. “Even before I had met Kemba, I was watching film on him. The way he’s able to finish — he’s like 5-10, 5-11 … he’s able to finish. You always see him get that little quick layup against 7-foot guys. So he’s shown me a lot of that stuff, being able to get downhill, when to be aggressive, when to create for your teammates, stuff like that because that’s something I’m still learning even now.
“So him and Derrick, they show me stuff all the time. And Derrick — even not only basketball but the mental side. He was one of the first people, when I was struggling a little bit, he was like, ‘Man, it can’t storm forever. You’re going to make shots. You’re a great shooter.’ So those guys stay on me — mentally and basketball wise.”