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Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley rapidly learns ropes of team's offense, defense

Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley shoots against Pistons forward

Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley shoots against Pistons forward Louis King during the second half of an NBA game Dec. 13, 2020 in Detroit. Credit: AP/Duane Burleson

Despite an abbreviated training camp and no summer league, when the NBA season began, Immanuel Quickley was being fast-tracked by the Knicks for a key role. But that ended 12 minutes into his regular-season debut.

Quickley was the first point guard off the bench for the Knicks on opening night, entering with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter. But after he absorbed a blow to his hip in a collision with Pacers center Myles Turner in the second quarter, the process was put on hold.

After four games off, Quickley was back when the Knicks faced Indiana again on Saturday night, scoring nine points in 15 minutes in his team’s 106-102 victory.

"I was able to just learn, watching the game, the little details of it," Quickley said in a Zoom call as he prepared for the next test against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. "Being a rookie, you just want to soak up any information you can — on the court, off the court — just being able to take a little bit of time off. I missed being out on the floor with my guys. But that last game was really fun to just go out there and be with my team. But any time you’re off, you want to take full advantage of it and get better."

Monday night’s task was an ambitious one for the 20-year-old point guard. Young entered the game tied with Kevin Durant at No. 3 in the NBA in scoring at 28.2 points per game, trailing only Steph Curry and Bradley Beal.

But the 6-3 Quickley has impressed and proved a quick study on both ends of the court. His defense has won the favor of coach Tom Thibodeau, he has shown an ability to draw fouls with a veteran’s intelligence and he has delivered on the expected shooting ability.

"A little rust, obviously, but overall very pleased, good energy," Thibodeau said after Quickley’s return to the lineup Saturday. "You could see he’s clever in terms of drawing fouls, which is very important, and he’ll get his rhythm very quickly. He’s really talented and he’s smart and he’s a great worker. I love his attitude, I love his approach. He’s going to be a really good player in this league for a long time."

"I felt like individually I played OK," Quickley said. "Could have played a lot better, especially defensively. But as a team, I feel like we did pretty good, going back to a place where we had lost. We made adjustments, fixed the adjustments in the meetings and in the film and things like that, and were able to come out with a win. So that’s big for our team.

"For us, being 3-3, we know it’s a long season, got to continue to get better each and every day, continue to work. And that’s what it’s all about — individually, as a team, just coming in each and every day with a mindset to grow and expand and get better. That’s the most important thing."

Quickley was the Knicks’ second pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft, chosen at No. 25 overall after they took Obi Toppin at No. 8. While it has been a quick transition for him, he noted that playing for Kentucky — and working with an assistant coach there in Kenny Payne who now is on the Knicks’ staff — has helped prepare him for this and maybe even hid some of his talents.

"A lot of my on-ball skills I feel like [were obscured]," Quickley said. "But at Kentucky, you’re playing with five other, six other NBA players, so you have to sacrifice. And I think that helped me a lot coming into the league. I’m able to do more than just one thing. I’m able to not just spot-up or play on the ball. I can do both, guard both. So coming from Kentucky, it was definitely an advantage and I’m glad I picked there."

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