NEW YORK — Immanuel Quickley was scrolling his social media, as the Generation Z’ers tend to do, and he randomly pulled up a clip of Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.
“Damn, I love Quickley too dawg,” Garnett said on his SHOWTIME show, ‘Anything is Possible.’ “Quickley and Bones [Hyland] are two of my favorite young guys in the league. And Tyrese Maxey. I love watching them play. They’re my favorite guys.”
Quickley smiled when asked about the sound byte, which, it should be noted, began because Garnett’s guest Paul Pierce floated Quickley as a piece to trade for Damian Lillard.
Garnett was clearly resistant to including the Knicks point guard in such a deal.
“That was cool, man,” Quickley told the New York Daily News. “That was cool.”
Not too long ago, Quickley probably wouldn’t have been on Garnett’s radar. He started this season playing sparingly while averaging just over nine points in October and November. He was the subject of trade rumors because of a crowded backcourt and looming summer contract extension negotiations.
But Quickley soon rose to the top of Tom Thibodeau’s minutes’ distribution, and suddenly the University of Kentucky product is receiving plenty of attention as a top Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
“I always knew I could be this type of player,” Quickley told the News.
A big part of Quickley’s recent surge is the unavailability of Jalen Brunson, who has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries to his foot and hand. Quickley stepped in as the starter and kept the Knicks in the East’s fifth spot, just one victory away from clinching the playoffs.
Even when Brunson returned for Wednesday’s victory over the Heat, Quickley closed the fourth quarter and led the Knicks with 24 points — two nights after he dropped a career-high 40 at MSG. Quickley has averaged over 20 points in March.
Brunson, the darling of this resurgent Knicks season, understood why he stayed on the bench against Miami.
“[That lineup] rolled away with the game. The way they were playing was incredible,” Brunson said. “They just found a way to keep fighting. Everything they were doing on both sides of the ball they were clicking so you’ve just got to go with that.”
Part of the gravitation toward Quickley — and perhaps it’s what attracted Garnett — is the energy brought to his celebrations. Nobody on the court looks like he’s having more fun.
And in between the struts and dances, the 23-year-old has developed into one of New York’s most reliable pieces. So much so that Garnett would think twice about trading Quickley for a superstar.
“Best memories of KG I have is in Boston, the Big 3,” Quickley said. “I don’t remember his Timberwolves days too much. But when he was in Boston, I definitely remember KG. He was an anchor. Midrange shots with ease. He’s a Hall of Fame guy. That was awesome for him to say that.”