Knicks’ Immanuel Quickley gets to pick Damian Lillard’s brain
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The game was fun, but the postgame introduction was even more significant.
After scoring a career-high 31 points in a narrow loss at Portland on Sunday, Immanuel Quickley was able to pick the brain of one of his idols. Knicks assistant coach Johnnie Bryant connected Quickley with superstar guard Damian Lillard, whom Bryant mentored years ago and with whom he remains close.
“It was really cool to be able to talk to somebody on that level,” the impressive rookie guard Quickley said Thursday.
Over a series of text messages, Lillard offered Quickley input and suggestions. He gave him advice and some helpful pointers. By the sound of it, the five-time All-Star left a big impression on the youngster.
“I took everything away, honestly, from the type of person he is first of all, the type of player he is, [the] competitor [he is],” Quickley said. “Then really just giving me advice on obviously the point guard position, but what it takes to win in this league, what it takes to help your team win, how to bounce back from good games, bad games, staying even-keeled throughout the whole season.
“It was good to just have someone like to be able to go to, someone that’s been through a lot, Western Conference finals, the MVP [race], things like that.”
Quickley was pretty impressive in his own right in Portland, scoring 21 fourth-quarter points as the Knicks cut a 25-point deficit down to three in the final minute before falling just short. It turned out to be an entertaining battle between the two, as Lillard scored a game-high 39 points and added eight assists, and the former Kentucky star became the first Knicks rookie to score at least 30 points with five made 3-pointers in a game off the bench.
It was the highlight of an up-and-down road trip for Quickley. He was quiet in the first two games, combining for just 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, exploded late in the loss to the Trail Blazers, then suffered through his worst game of his young career, a 1-for-11 shooting dud against the Jazz.
It was the latest new experience for him, his first long road trip, and his first chance to see two of the game’s best lead guards, Lillard and Stephen Curry, up close. He paid extra attention to them.
“Just understand how they play the game, how they get their teammates involved, what they do to lead their teams to win,” Quickley said. “It was really cool. … Just to see them in person and try to take some stuff with me and try to get better.”
Early on, he’s been one of the biggest surprises of the rookie class, the 25th-overall pick who was a projected second-round selection. Quickley is averaging 10.7 points and shooting 34.5 percent from deep, quickly becoming a fan favorite, a part of the young core the Knicks hope can create a bright future.
“I’m just glad to see a little bit of results and just continue to try to work hard and try to help this team win,” Quickley said.
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