Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley was simply sensational in Friday night’s 102-81 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Coming off the bench, Quickley ignited the Knicks’ second unit to the tune of 25 points (a team high) to go along with five rebounds and three assists. Quickley was also 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, providing some much needed spacing and shooting in the backcourt.
Quickley has instantly become a fan favorite in New York, but the question remains: When is he going to crack the starting lineup?
Head coach Tom Thibodeau was asked about that possibility after Friday’s win, saying that finding the right groups of players to have on the floor together is what really matters, as does having the right lineup to finish a game.
“There’s always thought with everything. And because someone doesn’t start, that’s really not that important to me,” Thibodeau said. “It’s having groups that play well together and you can always finish with the people who you feel will always give you the best chance to win the game. So, whatever the game calls for you can try to take advantage of that.
“But we’re always looking at different lineups and what works best and how guys complement each other. So, he’s going to have a significant role. But we’re going to need everyone. So, tonight was his night and Sunday afternoon it could be somebody else’s.”
Quickley ended up playing just under 25 minutes on Friday, which was about two minutes more than starting point guard Elfrid Payton was on the floor.
The rookie from Kentucky was also asked about wanted to start, but right now, he just wants to do whatever the coaching staff feels is best.
“I really just do whatever the coaches ask me to do, and right now that’s coming off the bench,” Quickley said. “When I come into the game, just giving energy, playing my game which is playing hard, being unselfish, being aggressive when I have to, playing defense and really just doing whatever the team needs me to do to get wins. So that’s the most important thing right now.
“I think we’re the nine or eight seed right, so we’re trying to get into the playoffs this year, and just doing whatever my teammates need me to do to achieve that.”
But whether Quickley starts or not, one thing is already clear: Just 20 games into his young NBA career, Quickley has already earned the trust of Thibodeau, which doesn’t come easy.
“You always want to have trust between a player and a coach,” said Quickley. “If a coach trusts you, that means you’ve put in the work and you’ve worked hard, and I feel like I’ve done that and will continue to do that, just work hard and stay in the gym and continue to get better, whether it’s film or weight-lifting.
“Anything that I can do to continue to strive to get better, continue to earn the coaches’ trust, not only [Thibodeau] but the whole coaching staff and my teammates, I’m going to continue to do that.”