Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley’s sojourn to Las Vegas to participate on the U.S. Select Team against the Olympians has already paid off.
On Wednesday, Quickley finally spoke to Kevin Durant, who took a liking to his fellow Maryland denizen.
“When I was selected to the Select Team I was really excited, really grateful,’’ Quickley said from Vegas on a Zoom call. “Just to get to pick people’s brains, like talking to Kevin Durant today. Just being around the best pros and best basketball players in the world is a great experience.
“Just talking to KD today and he told me we can get some work in when we’re here. That’s probably the best thing any of these guys can say. They’re willing to work out with us and teach us. That was one of the best things I heard today.’’
It keeps getting better for Quickley, who became the steal of the 2020 draft as the 25th selection. The Kentucky combo guard earned second team all-rookie as a sparkplug off the bench and now is in Vegas facing off against Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Durant every day this week.
“Blessed to have a great season with a great team; great coaches, great teammates — so it was all good,’’ Quickley said. “Coaches were congratulating me and just telling me there’s more work to be done, which I understand there is. I feel like I had a good season, but I don’t feel like I had a great season. I feel like I could have done a lot more and I’m looking forward to coming back and proving myself even more in this next year.’’
Against Atlanta in the playoffs, Quickley didn’t excel like he did in the regular season, when he averaged 11.4 points and shot 38.9 from 3 and 89.1 percent on free throws. The Knicks lost in five games and watching the Hawks march two wins from the NBA Finals didn’t make it any easier to swallow.
“I think we look at is as we let an opportunity slip away,’’ Quickley said. “We feel like we came far but we could have went even farther. Atlanta’s a great team, credit to them. We just didn’t play our best so just coming back in the offseason we’re going to continue to work hard, continue to get better and just be ready for next season.’’
Quickley’s killer floater was the one element opponents adjusted to. He knows he’s got to add more to his offensive repertoire, especially a midrange jumper. The Knicks don’t view Quickley as a pure point guard, but he’s played a lot of it for the Select Team.
“I feel like my biggest strength this year was probably just being able to make plays,’’ Quickley said. “I feel like that was something I didn’t and everyone didn’t see in college. But just being able to play with the ball in my hands, on the ball, being able to make plays for myself and teammates.
“Being here at USA Basketball, I’m just trying to work on things that I didn’t necessarily show last year which is my midrange game, my pull-up, creating for my teammates and consistently running a team, which I’ve been doing here, playing a lot of point guard. It’s been a great experience. Defense [is] another thing, getting stronger.“I don’t feel like it’s just one thing. If it was just one thing I’d be the best player in the world but I’m not.”
Quickley likes the new rules allowing college players to profit off their name, image and likeness.
“I feel like it’s good benefiting off their college name,’’ Quickley said. “Somebody like me going to Kentucky. That fan base is crazy. We get recognized going to class, getting something to eat, going to the mall, movies. We’re recognized everywhere we go. We deserve to have a little bit of that notoriety. I’m glad some of my peers are able to experience it. People getting money, getting paid to take care of their family.’’