Immanuel Quickley made the most of Christmas, to the extreme.
Quickley played in the Knicks’ Christmas Day matinee win over Atlanta, had Christmas dinner with Obi Toppin’s family, and then finished the vacation in Tarrytown.
Quickley’s work ethic wowed the Knicks’ coaching staff, but not even Tom Thibodeau was at his headquarters working into the wee hours of Christmas night.
“I think it was at 1 in the morning after Christmas dinner, I went to the gym,” Quickley said. “I think that’s the craziest thing. i think i was seeing steph [Curry on Christmas], and he was going crazy. I was like, ‘I have to go to the gym. I have to go to the gym after seeing that. Yeah, I think that was the craziest one.”
The offseason is upon the Knicks, prematurely, just as Quickley was getting better, finishing the season with two triple-doubles in his last three games.
After shaking off an early-season sophomore campaign, Quickley closed out shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range over the past 29 games. He showed more playmaking ability than he had ever shown, even at Kentucky.
Knicks bosses 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 finished just 29.2 percent overall (34.6-for-3).
The Knicks have their eye on free-agent point guard Jalen Brunson, but if the Mavericks have a strong playoff run, owner Mark Cuban and coach Jason Kidd might not let him go.
“The Mavericks still love Jalen,” an NBA source said.
Quickley danced over the possibility of returning next season as the starting point guard after playing his rookie year mostly without the ball.
He started only twice this season, including the final against Toronto when he became the third Knick to record a 30-point triple-double after Walt Frazier and Julius Randle with his 34-point, 12-assist, 10-rebound 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 wore dark sunglasses during his postgame interview, the same glasses he donned after his original triple-double on April 3 in Orlando. He’s not afraid of being the center of attention and makes theatrical gestures after draining a great 3-point shot, even bringing up last season’s “swimming move” in the season finale.
However, sources say his field wasn’t thrilled by his fluctuating minute allocation earlier in the season.
Due to his gym rat persona, Thibodeau hopes Quickley, who turns 23 on June 17, will return 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.
Quickley said growing up to be a better one-on-one defender is a main 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. Middle range [shooting] It is one. Creating plays, so I can keep seeing the floor better and creating for my teammates, and then I want to keep adding shooting range, so I can shoot further and further.”
Quickley wants to hit long 3s like Curry, who also entered the league with doubts about whether he was 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 suffered what became season-ending ankle surgery in December.
“We were hoping to make the playoffs,” Quickley said. “We could have done much better. Still proud of the boys. We still come every day and everyone respects each other. All you can ask for is to come to work and have guys around you who enjoy coming to work. It’s a season where we wanted to make the playoffs, but we’ll be back better next year.”