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Immanuel Quickley brings energy off bench for Knicks

Knicks' Immanuel Quickley (5) celebrates after an NBA

Knicks' Immanuel Quickley (5) celebrates after an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Tom Thibodeau was out of work two years ago, his time in Minnesota over and not yet hired by the Knicks. But Dice Yoshimoto, who had been a part of Thibodeau’s staff with the Bulls and the Timberwolves and would join Thibodeau in New York, was coaching in college at Georgia when he spotted Immanuel Quickley playing against his team. And that was enough to put a call into Thibodeau.

"I wasn’t coaching, I was traveling around," Thibodeau said. "He said, ‘Watch this kid, Quickley. He’s like all the small guards we had in Chicago.’ He said he takes every big shot for Kentucky. So I started watching. And I called [William Wesley] I asked him about him. Wes gave me the background on him. I didn’t know where I was going to be but he was somebody high on our radar."

It came together quickly, with Thibodeau landing the Knicks job, Wesley getting a front-office job, Yoshimoto coming in and Quickley getting selected in the front round. Now, in their second season in New York, Quickley has emerged with the same sort of skill set that Yoshimoto spotted in college. And it’s the same one that Quickley has known he possessed far longer.

"Yeah it was a 9-10 [-year-old] championship game and I hit a step back three, walk-off, for the game," he said. "And I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and everybody was holding me up. I’ll never forget that shot."

He poured in 16 points off the bench Monday night against the Pacers to help bail the Knicks out. After a sluggish start to the season, not playing 20 minutes in any game and struggling to find his shot on most nights, Quickley has converted 14 of 25 shots from beyond the arc in the last five games and it has earned him playing time. He is helping key a second unit that has outplayed the starting lineup.

It hasn’t just been the shotmaking though. On a team that has seemed devoid of energy at times he has provided a spark, running wildly on both ends of the court and playing to the crowd.

"That’s who he is," RJ Barrett said. "He’s very active. He’s all over the place. I joke around with him and tell him anything can happen with Quick out there. But he’s such a smart player and clutch, and making big-time shots in all these games whether it’s helping us back into it or helping us close the game, it’s huge."

"it’s just fun playing in the Garden," Quickley said. "I ain’t going to lie. The energy is just crazy. And then when you watch games as a kid — like I was like in middle school when Kemba Walker hit that step back for the game [in the Big East Tournament] and then you see him running down the court and everybody grabbing him, it’s just fun playing in the Garden."

Notes & quotes: Nerlens Noel will be sidelined again Wednesday. Mitchell Robinson will play after being unavailable in the fourth quarter Monday with a sore left ankle. Robinson said his troubles this season have come from trying to adjust to new sneakers that fit an orthotic to protect his surgically-repaired foot. "It still ain’t worked out," Robinson said. "I think now it’s about to be some [Timberland boots] or something. For real, bro. Hey man, I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to figure it out quick because I don’t want this to keep happening."

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