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Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley proving value despite poor shooting

SAN FRANCISCO — Immanuel Quickley made an impact for the Knicks on Wednesday night without scoring much, a perfect snapshot of his season so far. 

Known mostly for his offensive ability entering the season, the third-year guard’s shooting numbers are down — he’s shooting a career-worst 29.3 percent from 3-point range and averaging just 8.9 points — but his overall value is not. 

“That’s one of my goals: being a two-way player,” he said on Friday before the Knicks faced the Warriors to continue their five-game road trip. 

Quickley has been the team’s best defenders by the defensive rating metric. With him on the court, the Knicks are allowing 101.8 points per game per 100 possessions. He is also the Knicks’ leader in net rating: They have outscored their opponents by 6.1 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court. He has committed just three turnovers in his past seven games, while racking up 20 assists. 

Immanuel Quickley
Immanuel Quickley’s defense has emerged despite his shooting woes.

Quickley’s biggest moment of the young season came Wednesday night when the Knicks rallied to knock off the Nuggets, handing them their first home loss. Quickley was defending Jamal Murray in the final seconds, didn’t go for any of his ball fakes and forced him into an airball as time expired. 

“I think really just trying to make the [player you’re guarding] take a tough shot — sometimes, you go against great players and they make; sometimes, you go against them and they miss it,” he said. “It’s why you wanna do it, try to make it as tough as possible each and every time they take a shot or they try to make a play. That’s really pretty much all you can do, and right now it’s working.” 

The biggest change in Quickley’s game is in rebounding. He is grabbing 4.8 boards per game, well up from the 3.2 he averaged a year ago. He has been particularly effective in helping the Knicks’ big men on the defensive glass and starting the break, a major strength of the team. 

Some of that he attributed to putting on more muscle in the offseason. He’s up roughly eight pounds. He also credited it to a habit he picked up while at Kentucky: Visualization. 

“Before the game, I imagine myself scoring points and making plays. I imagine myself rebounding,” Quickley said. “I do stuff like that, visualization. And then when the game comes, it’s nothing but my imagination just taking [over during] the course of the game.” 

Quickley’s future with the Knicks is uncertain. His name was included in trade rumors during the summer and there have been recent reports that the Knicks have discussed moving him for future draft pick compensation. Asked about those rumors, Quickley said his focus was on continuing this winning trip, in which he has had a major hand. He scored 13 points in a win over the Jazz and had six assists and five rebounds against the Nuggets. 

“Whatever the team asks me to do I try to go out there and do to help the team win,” Quickley said. “Defending, one night it might be my night to go get 25, another night it might be to guard the best player.” 

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