Immanuel Quickley's performance impresses Knicks' Tom Thibodeau despite Trail Blazers defeat

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Garrett Stepien
·2 min read
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Immanuel Quickley pulls up from three Blazers
Immanuel Quickley pulls up from three Blazers

A comeback attempt from down 25 points fell short for the Knicks in Sunday's 116-113 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but a valiant effort by rookie Immanuel Quickley left head coach Tom Thibodeau with a big-picture takeaway after the game.

Off the bench, Quickley scored an early career-high 31 points on 9-of-18 shooting, including 5 for 8 on from long range while making all eight free throws in just 24 minutes. Quickley's offensive performance in only his 14th NBA game turned heads among media and fans, but he caught Thibodeau's eyes on both ends.

"It's impressive and, again, I think his shotmaking is a huge asset for our team," Thibodeau said. "That's something that we needed, is shooting, and it'll open up the floor for us. But his all-around play gets better with each outing. He gets pressure on people. And defensively, he's learning. And as time goes on, he'll get better and better at it."

After a left hip injury for Quickley in the Dec. 23 opener against the Indiana Pacers, Thibodeau sees the 2020 NBA Draft's No. 25 overall pick out of Kentucky putting the pieces together.

"The preseason, he was really in a really good rhythm offensively, shooting the ball," Thibodeau said. "And then after he got hurt in the Indiana game ... that layoff set him back some. He was out of rhythm when he came back. And so, I think he's back into that rhythm. And it's something that we were confident about. And that's one of the reasons why we drafted him, is his ability to shoot the ball.

"But also, he's such a great student of the game. The way he prepares himself for each game, those types of guys with this type of drive, they're going to improve. And I think the second time around when he plays a team a second and third time, he'll have a better understanding of what they're trying to do to him and also what they're trying to do offensively.

"The way he studies, it'll give him a head start. But it's something that -- he's a great worker, he's a great teammate, people like to play with him ... and I think he's adjusted quite well to the NBA game, taking everything into consideration."