Paul George immediately recognized Immanuel Quickley’s rare rookie quality

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Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News
·3 min read
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Immanuel Quickley had finished his pregame routine at MSG, and wandered over to Clippers side of the court to soak in the work of a true great.

“He sat down and watched Kawhi shoot and work out for like 15 minutes,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said.

It was a silent observation.

“I wasn’t going to really bother him or nothing, ask him questions,” Quickley said. “But just seeing how he carries himself, what type of pro he is and just really that. I was just intrigued at seeing the best players at our game and what they do.”

Leonard said he wasn’t aware of the rookie’s presence pregame, but Quickley was again hard to ignore once the whistle blew. He dropped 25 points in just 27 minutes off the bench, giving the powerhouse Clippers a scare and forcing adjustments before L.A. polished off a 129-115 victory over the Knicks.

Quickley’s signature floater dropped six times Sunday afternoon, earning respect from the stars.

“We were just talking in the back that his float game is off the charts for a young guy,” Paul George said. “And I think what I love the most, which is a hard quality to find, is I thought he was fearless. He took some big shots. He stepped up to take big shots. And offensively, he was just aggressive.”

The Clippers (16-5) are an offensive juggernaut and predictably went off at MSG to win for the 10th time in their last 11 games. But the Knicks (8-12) cut the deficit to 2 in the fourth quarter, and that was almost exclusively because of Quickley.

He scored 10 straight Knicks points over three minutes, the type of dynamic burst that has come to define his very short NBA career. Quickley’s floater had the Clippers in a bind, as Lue acknowledged afterwards. The Clippers didn’t want to push up their big man to contest Quickley in the lane because it left them susceptible to lobs for Mitchell Robinson.

So Lue was okay with the floater. Until the coach realized he couldn’t be.

“Those are the shots you want to allow when you look at analytic-wise. But those are the shots he can make,” Lue said, “so we had to do something different to try to take that away.”

The Clippers resorted to blitzing Quickley and switching on the picks, a technique that contributed to their 24-10 run in the final eight minutes. Still, Quickley added to the hype while outplaying his idol, Lou Williams. In the second quarter, Quickley told Williams, “You’re one of my favorite players,” prompting an embrace between the two backup guards. Then the 21-year-old outscored the 34-year-old, 25-9.

He’s averaging 17 points in his last 10 games while impressing with his confidence and signature floater.

“He’s willing to learn, he wants to learn, he wants to be great,” Lue recognized. “And that’s what you want from young players. He showed today he’s a special talent.”