Immanuel Quickley always has considered himself a combo guard, capable of effectively running the offense from the point or playing off the ball.
Quickley was pressed into far more minutes at point guard last year than he’d logged over his first two seasons with the Knicks, especially with Derrick Rose sidelined after Dec. 16 following multiple ankle surgeries and Kemba Walker’s departure from the team in February.
With the addition of $104 million free agent Jalen Brunson as the starting point guard and the return of the 34-year-old Rose to the second unit, however, Quickley’s versatility presents Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau with added flexibility to mix and match his rotation combinations in the backcourt.
“He’s both. … I look at Quick as a combo guard, and when you analyze the point guards in our league, they’re all different,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks held an open practice for select fans Sunday at Columbia. “There’s more scoring point guards than ever, so you want a combination of both.
“Derrick is a power point guard, and Quick is good coming off catch-and-shoot. He did a lot of that in college [at Kentucky], but he was a point guard in high school. So he’s comfortable playing both.”
With starting shooting guard Evan Fournier rested and backup Quentin Grimes sidelined for a second straight preseason game with a foot injury, Thibodeau employed three guards together at times on the second unit in Friday’s win over Indiana with Quickley, Rose and speedy Miles McBride alongside bigs Obi Toppin and Isaiah Hartenstein.
“Any of us can bring the ball up to start the offense,” Quickley said Sunday of the three-guard alignment. “It’s three playmakers on the floor at once, and defensively I feel like you don’t lose anything, as well. I feel like we’re all really good defenders.
“We can just create for each other, get in the lane, create offense, score the ball, create for our teammates. So I feel like it works in all facets.”
After finishing last season averaging 11.3 points and 3.5 assists in 23.1 minutes per game, the 23-year-old Quickley has said that he added muscle to his upper body over the summer.
Asked where he’s noticed the biggest difference on the court, Quickley replied, “I feel defensively is definitely one, finishing around the basket, and just having legs on my jump shot. I want to have a great year defensively, a higher field-goal percentage and just being more consistent. Being stronger I feel is going to help on both sides of the court.”
Quickley added that he’s “learned so much” during his time as teammates with Rose, a former league MVP with the Bulls as a 22-year-old in 2010-11.
“He’s somebody that I looked up to when I was younger, I watched his game a lot. Youngest MVP [in league history]. So you can learn a lot from guys like that,” Quickley said. “He’s one of the best players in our league, with a lot of experience. So it’s great to learn from somebody like that.
“His pace, how the game is slow for him. All types of things. He’s been in the league for a minute, so he’s meant a lot to me.”
Quickley also has been picking the brain of and building a relationship with Brunson, the former Maverick who landed a four-year deal worth $104 million in July.
“Obviously, everybody sees everything he does on the floor, but I feel like leader-wise, he’s somebody in the huddle who’s very vocal and very positive,” Quickley said. “I actually went to his house [Saturday] night and we just kicked it. So he’s somebody you can talk to off the floor, too, chill with. He’s gonna be great for this team.”