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Immanuel Quickley adjusts to Knicks having more options on offense this season

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks attempts a shot during the game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on October 22, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Sam Greenwood

ORLANDO — Through the seemingly endless, exhausting 58 minutes of action in the Knicks’ season opener, Immanuel Quickley played just over eight minutes. When others were collapsing afterward, he went to work.

"Right after that Celtics game, I went straight to the gym," Quickley said. "I expect to stay ready throughout the season whether my name is called or whether it’s not called. That’s something I learned from a lot of players in this league is always stay ready, always wait for your opportunity, and when you get your opportunity, go and play hard and have fun. I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned in this league."

In the morning before Friday’s game against the Magic, coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about his decision to use Quickley sparingly in the opener. He said, "Just the group that was in there got going and so we just rode them longer. We obviously have a lot of confidence in Quick. He’s a team-first guy, but we know what he can do."

It took Quickley only two days to get his chance. He played 20 minutes against the Magic in Orlando on Friday night, shot 4-for-8 from three-point range, scored 16 points and helped the Knicks to a 121-96 win.

If the shift in opportunity came for him quickly, so have the lessons, just two games into his second season in the NBA.

The lesson now is that the Knicks needed him last season, and while they do this season, too, they have options that they didn’t have a year ago. His greatest talent right now is the ability to create points, and with the arrival of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, the development of teammates and even the rookies added to the squad, Thibodeau has other scoring options.

"That’s a big part of our team’s success is our depth," Quickley said. "We can go a full 15. Everybody does something real special with our team and everybody knows what they’re good at. And we play to each other’s strengths and cover each other’s weaknesses.

"It could be anybody. That’s how our team is and we’re bought in. When somebody has success, everybody has success."

Pretty much everyone has had success in the two victories. The Knicks had six players score in double figures in the opener and topped that with seven Friday. They scored 138 points in the double-overtime opener (116 in regulation) and followed it with 121 in Orlando.

In the latter game, Quickley was one of four Knicks with four three-point field goals, along with Fournier, Alec Burks and Derrick Rose, and helped set a franchise record with 24 made three-pointers.

"Honestly, we might be able to bring it again as far as the way we play together, the way we move the ball," Quickley said of the record, which topped the 20 the Knicks had converted three previous times in franchise history. "And then the defense creates offense. And then Thibs wants us to shoot more threes. We might be able to beat it again.

"I think our culture is really together as far as everybody cheering for each other. When somebody has success, we all have success. That’s kind of our culture: When somebody does good, we feel like we all do good."

Said Thibodeau, "I think it’s a reflection of them playing for each other and just make the right play. We talked about it a lot at the beginning of the year — we wanted to shoot more threes, but we wanted them to be the right threes. So when guys are putting it down when the second defender comes, make the right reads. And your rim reads are critical; second defender, spray it out, make the right pass. Oftentimes you’re involving two or three people on that play to get you a rhythm shot."

It all worked Friday, and with a large contingent of Knicks fans packed into Amway Center, it had a feel not that different from Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks will face the Magic again Sunday.

"It’s great. It kind of reminds me of college playing at Kentucky," Quickley said. "The fans traveled. The Knicks fans are the best fans in the league. So it’s great to have your homecourt advantage and I feel like on the road, we have a little bit of an advantage, too."

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