On the second night of a back-to-back series of games, the Knicks didn’t really rest anyone, with the starters logging between 17 and 34 minutes and all members of the bench (expected to be part of Thibs’ regular-season rotation) getting between seven and 24.
There was, however, a “nicked-up” player missing. Your man Immanuel Quickley.
Coach Thibodeau said before the game that IQ was scratched from the gameday squad because he was “nicked up just a little bit.”
Then, on Friday and mostly Saturday’s practice at the Tarrytown training facilities, Quickley was back on the floor, and although he didn’t speak to the media, his teammates pretty much revealed what we all thought about Wednesday’s absence: Quickley out — Precautionary DNP.
Knicks players, Tom Thibodeau comment on Immanuel Quickley’s situation
The player discussing IQ’s state of affairs for the most part was, obviously, RJ Barrett.
RJ found himself in a similar situation to IQ just a year ago, entering the final season under his 2019 rookie deal and having to wait for an agreement on an early extension before the season started.
He finally put pen to paper on Aug. 29, inking a four-year, triple-digit deal.
“[I] had to be cautious, but not playing that summer—I love to play all the time,” Barrett told reporters on Friday. “I think that was a little bit of the frustration on my end. Like, the contact stuff and wanting to do more during the summer.”
Thibs confirmed what happened with Barrett, even though he kept refusing to acknowledge that’s the case once again, only now with IQ.
“Usually guys that are in [RJ/IQ] situation, you’re not gonna see them playing pickup or that sort of thing,” Thibodeau said Saturday. “You will see them make the commitment to conditioning.”
Expanding on that, Thibs said the day before that Quickley, in fact, returned to practicing with his teammates. “He felt good today,” Thibodeau said. “He was great.”
Asked about Quickley, Thibs said on Friday that he is just the coach, and thus, “The main thing is basketball” when it comes to his daily job and duties. “Leon, obviously, the front office, they handle the business aspect of it, as does [Quickley’s] agent. I feel good about hopefully they’ll find some common ground somewhere.”
On a final note, Thibs said Saturday, “Quick is gonna play, he’s gonna play every day.”
Jalen Brunson echoed his coach, saying Quickley “has been coming in every day to do his job. He’s had a great attitude, he’s mentally ready to go.” Added JB: “That’s all you can ask of him. He’s been a true professional. I just know he’ll stay that way.”
No need to mention it but just in case you’ve been living under a rock: Quickley’s final season under contract will see him earn nearly $4.2 this year, and if he is not signed by Monday at 5 p.m. ET, then he will become a restricted free agent next summer. The Knicks would be able to match any offer he receives, but they wouldn’t be able to control the price paid to retain IQ anymore.
RJ Barrett, feeling better than last summer
Following a summer in which he was forced to play the waiting game with his extension hanging in the air, Barrett admitted on Friday, “Having played this summer (in the FIBA World Cup) was big for me. I’m just in a better rhythm, as well as routine things.”
RJ also said “Getting older, learning the league more, learning myself, learning my body—I’m figuring things out more and more.”
Still a few days from making the regular-season debut next week when New York will host the Celtics at MSG, Barrett added, “I feel great, even in the preseason games. I feel really good. So I’m excited.”
Thibodeau praised RJ on Saturday: “The thing I love about RJ, RJ never gets too high, never gets too low. He’s the same guy every day, and that’s good,” the coach stated. “Just focus on getting better and helping the team. Everyone has to prioritize helping the team.
“We all tend to forget [RJ is 23 years old],” Thibodeau said. “And that’s the thing I love about our team—we’re real young, and young guys can get better, and as long as they’re willing to make that commitment, I know they’ll get better.
“I’m betting on that,” Thibs claimed.
Barrett, Thibodeau discuss preseason concerns and what’s ahead
“We’re getting back to learning how to play together and stuff,” Barrett said on Friday. “We gotta gear up.”
RJ thinks the Knicks are “ready to a certain extent,” although he acknowledged, “We have to clean up things and make sure we’re sharp.”
Thibodeau sounded a bit harsher, saying, “This is our reality. This is what we have to deal with.” The coach told reporters after Friday’s practice that the team now has to “focus-in on what we have to fix and what we have to get better at.”
An interesting question asked to Thibodeau was about the massive one-week gap between the final preseason game and the regular-season opener on Oct. 25, leaving players on the fridge for seven days.
“It’s a little unusual to have this much of a gap,” Thibodeau said. “There’s so many [ways to go about it], so it’s a balance, the recovery aspect with the preparation for where we need to be on opening night.”
After saying he was “disappointed” with the team’s performance against the Wizards on Wednesday, Thibodeau said, “There’s a lot of things that we have to work on” last Friday, adding “This is a great opportunity for that. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
That said, Thibs cautioned about not looking too far ahead with the Knicks facing one of the hardest schedules to start the season.
“We have to be ready right from the start, but not to look ahead, not to look at all seven games or 10 games or the first couple months,” Thibodeau said. “I just want them locked into today and getting ready for Boston. Then, when that game is gone, study what happened, make corrections, and get ready for the next game.”