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Dear Knicks fans: It’s OK to believe in Quentin Grimes

Yes, it’s only Summer League. But he’s very good.

2022 NBA Summer League - Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks Photo by Bart YoungNBAE via Getty Images

Heading into Summer League, Quentin Grimes made his intentions clear: He was coming to dominate. After two games, Grimes appears to be backing up his words, scoring 24 points in both New York wins. The opening game started out a bit rough, as he shot 1-9 in the first half, but since then he has been the Grimes fans were hoping to see.

Perhaps it is fitting that Grimes has grabbed the spotlight in Summer League, as this could be a big moment in his young career. There have been rumblings that Grimes might have a chance to supplant Evan Fournier as the starting two guard in the regular season. Could it really happen? Could Grimes go from the 25th pick in the 2021 Draft to supplanting the Knicks’ premier 2021 free agent acquisition?

While we here at P&T certainly support the decision to start Grimes, we recognize that we have no say in the matter. But I would like to address a trend that I’ve noticed on social media recently — a sort of backlash to the excitement many Knicks fans feel when watching Grimes dominate in Vegas. This backlash starts from a reasonable premise: Summer League stats don’t matter. Hey, that’s true! Knicks fans need only look back a few years, to Kevin Knox’s star turn in 2019 Summer League, to remember how these Vegas fantasies can turn into harsh regular-season realities.

However, this sentiment often takes a very dark turn in the minds of Knicks fans. Because these are the Knicks — the cursed, incompetent Knicks, who never draft the right guy — you would be a fool to expect any good from these Quentin Grimes minutes.

I’m not here today to relitigate the decision to draft Obi Toppin, or whether Immanuel Quickley deserves praise despite his poor field goal percentage — I’m just talking about Quentin Grimes. And personally, I think it’s weird to doubt the kid. His rookie numbers don’t stand out, mostly due to poor injury luck and Thibs decision to bury him for the first part of the season, but when Grimes played, he produced. How soon we forget his first NBA start, when he dropped 27 points on the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks. Over the 26 games between that Milwaukee game and the All-Star break, he averaged an impressive 8.8 points per game on 42.6 FG%/39.5 3P%. If his season hadn’t been derailed by a freak knee injury in the first game after the break, he would have been in contention for an all-rookie team.

Look, I’m one of the most negative Knicks fans you’ll ever meet. I’ve been scarred by decades of Knicks failures. I think they’re going to lose every game, and no halftime lead is too large to blow. But I have seen nothing in Vegas that makes me think that his rookie season was a fluke. The kid has standout defensive chops. Yes, maybe Frank Ntilikina was also a great defender, but Grimes is different — he is a legit three-point sniper with the guts to pull up from anywhere on the court.

This isn’t about curses, or institutional ineptitude. This isn’t about Phil Jackson selecting Cleanthony Early over Nikola Jokic. This is about Quentin Grimes, the basketball player. He’s quite good, and he’s only getting better. Being a Knicks fans requires a massive leap of faith. We know now that we’ll never sign a prime LeBron James or Kevin Durant. We’ll probably never win a draft lottery in the near future, because one time in 1985 was apparently enough from the basketball gods. If the franchise is going to improve, it’s going to come from players like Grimes — players of more humble origin, who grow into something better. You can feel confident in his play, Knicks fans, whether he’s in Vegas or on the MSG hardwood. Hell, maybe we can all enjoy him together.