Knicks must decide if Immanuel Quickley can be their point-guard answer

Immanuel Quickley made the most of Christmas — to the extreme.

Quickley played in the Knicks’ Christmas Day matinee victory over Atlanta, had Christmas dinner with Obi Toppin’s family, then finished the holiday in Tarrytown.

Quickley’s work ethic has wowed the Knicks’ coaching staff, but even Tom Thibodeau wasn’t at their headquarters working in the wee hours on Christmas night.

“I think that was 1 in the morning after Christmas dinner, I went to the gym,’’ Quickley said. “I think that’s the craziest. I think I was watching Steph [Curry on Christmas], and he was going crazy. I was like, ‘I’ve got to go to the gym. I’ve got to the gym after watching that.’ Yeah, I think that was the craziest one.’’

The offseason is upon the Knicks, prematurely, just as Quickley was surging — finishing the season with two triple-doubles in his last three games.

Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley reacts after securing a trible-double against the Raptors on April 10, 2022.
Jason Szenes

After shaking off an early-season sophomore-jinxed campaign, Quickley closed by shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range in the final 29 games. He flashed more playmaking ability than he’s ever shown — even at Kentucky.

Knicks brass now have to wonder if Quickley, the 25th pick in the 2020 draft, is ready to take a giant step and compete for the starting point guard job in training camp. Quickley averaged 11.3 points and 3.3 assists, but because of his poor-shooting start, he wound up just 39.2 percent overall (34.6 from 3).

The Knicks have had their eye on free agent point guard Jalen Brunson, but if the Mavericks have a strong playoffs, owner Mark Cuban and coach Jason Kidd may not let him go.

“The Mavericks still love Jalen,” one NBA source said.

Jalen Brunson
Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson on April 10, 2022.
NBAE via Getty Images

Quickley danced around the possibility of coming back next season as a starting point guard after playing his rookie year mostly off the ball.

He started just twice this season — including the finale versus Toronto when he became the third Knick to post a 30-point triple-double after Walt Frazier and Julius Randle with his 34-point, 12-assist, 10-rebounding night.

“I just control what I can control, man, and that’s working hard, getting better every day,’’ Quickley said Sunday after the season finale. “If that’s starting, that’s coming off the bench, it is what it is.’’

Quickley was wearing dark sunglasses during his postgame interview — the same shades he donned after his original triple-double April 3 in Orlando. He’s not afraid of the spotlight and makes theatrical gestures after draining a big 3-point shot — even trotting out last season’s “swim move’’ in the season finale.

However, sources say his camp wasn’t thrilled at his fluctuating early-season minutes allotment.

Because of his gym-rat persona, Thibodeau is expecting Quickley, who turns 23 on June 17, to come back with more weapons.

He started the season slowly — in Thibodeau’s estimation — as he adjusted to new foul rules, with referees ignoring contact stemming from non-basketball moves.

Knicks
Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley shoots against the Raptors on April 10, 2022.
Jason Szenes

Quickley said bulking up to be a better one-on-one defender is a chief offseason goal.

“You want to work on everything,” Quickley said. “Getting stronger, I think that comes as you get older you keep lifting, you get stronger. Mid-range [shooting] is one. Playmaking, to be able to continue to see the floor better and create for my teammates, and then I want to keep adding shooting range, to be able to shoot farther and farther.”

Quickley wants to take long 3’s like Curry, who also entered the league with questions about whether he was a really a point guard.

The Knicks’ biggest flaw this season was not having a reliable starting point guard, after Kemba Walker left the team in February and Derrick Rose sustained what turned into season-ending ankle surgery in December.

“We had hopes of making the playoffs,” Quickley said. “We could’ve done a lot better. Still proud of the guys. We still come in each day and everybody respects each other. All you can ask is to come to work and have guys around you enjoy coming to work with. It’s a season that we wanted to make the playoffs but we’ll come back better next year.”

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