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Interview tidbits from Knicks rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley

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Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley have spoken.

2020 NBA Draft
Cool hat.
Photo by Courtesy of Immanuel Quickley/NBAE via Getty Images

In their debut interviews as members of the Knicks, rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley dished on numerous topics, including what they’ll bring to the squad, which players they aim to emulate, and how much film Tom Thibodeau is already making them watch.

Each rookie separately sat for roughly 30 minute virtual discussions with MSG AM co-host Monica McNutt that featured questions from both McNutt herself and season ticket holders via video conference. It was a high tech affair to be sure. Here’s Toppin, and here’s Quickley. In listening to the neophytes, a number of key themes emerged.

Neither player was 100% sure they would wind up as Knicks

Toppin knew the Knicks might very well take him, but he admitted he thought the Cleveland Cavaliers could grab him with the fifth pick. He said he wouldn’t have been surprised to be selected by any of the teams he worked out for, which reportedly includes at least the Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Still, we all saw his eye sockets leaking. The 22-year-old was psyched to join his hometown team.

“That whole night just didn’t feel real,” he said. “It felt like a dream. A dream come true.”

Quickley’s landing spot wasn’t so clear. The 21-year-old from Maryland was technically drafted by Oklahoma City. Then he heard he was being traded to Minnesota. After a few minutes, it became clear he was headed to the Knicks as part of a three team deal.

“The first thing I could think of was how close I am to being home,” he said.

Both believe they can help improve the Knicks

Unsurprisingly, Toppin and Quickley each think their very particular set of skills will bolster a Knicks team that is sorely in need of a boost. Toppin said that, while he appreciates how people have likened his game to that of Amar’e Stoudemire, he’s been spending the pandemic trying to figure out how to play like Anthony Davis.

“I feel like people don’t know how well I can shoot, how well I can put the ball on the floor,” he said.

He admitted that in order to earn AD comparisons he’ll have to step up his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, and said he thinks Thibodeau will help him reach new heights.

“He’s gonna push me every day to be great at defense,” Toppin said. “Once I get that down, we’re gonna be a very dangerous team.”

Quickley, who shot almost 40% from deep across two seasons at Kentucky, said he brings a bunch of abilities to the table, including outside shooting, defense and passing.

“I’m someone who’s gonna come in with an open mindset, trying to learn and get better every day,” he said.

He doesn’t try to model his game after any one player, but instead likes to take bits and pieces from different guys, including similarly sized NBA peers like CJ McCollum and Lou Williams. Meanwhile, he named Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as players he looks up to, and said he’s motivated by “proving haters and doubters wrong, and proving myself right.”

In one of the tastiest tidbits from either interview, Quickley noted that Thibs is already sending him film to study.

“I’ve been trying to get that stuff ingrained in my head, Quickley said. “He’s a great X’s and O’s guy.”

They share Kevin Knox as a mutual friend

Both Toppin and Quickley have existing relationships with Knox. Quickley played with Knox on the USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Championship Team in 2016. They won a gold medal together. Although Quickley and Knox both played at Kentucky, they didn’t overlap. Knox was already in the NBA by the time Quickley arrived in 2018-19.

Toppin, meanwhile, said he’s been working out with Knox for the last few weeks. Knox has been giving Toppin feedback and the two have been pushing each other, including through games of one-on-one.

“I feel like because of that, I’ve gotten a lot better,” Toppin said.

Toppin hasn’t ruled out the dunk contest

You may know Toppin best as a ferocious dunker focused on slamming basketballs into hoops as emphatically as possible. He earned that reputation by jamming a lot of basketballs.

When asked whether he might be interested in competing in the NBA Dunk Contest, he demurred.

“I mean, I might,” he said. “I don’t wanna say yes, I don’t wanna say no.”