After a 2020-21 regular season that no one outside of Madison Square Garden saw coming, the fourth-seeded Knicks took an earlier postseason exit than they would have liked when the Atlanta Hawks ousted them in the first round. On the other side of town, the Nets, with their Big Three and lofty expectations, also were bounced earlier than expected — by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
For players on each team, that meant getting an early jump on offseason activities.
Nets superstar Kevin Durant quickly turned his attention to Tokyo, site of the Summer Olympics. Come late July, the 11-time All-Star will attempt to help lead Team USA to gold.
Ahead of Team USA’s trip to Tokyo, the squad is practicing in Las Vegas. It’s there that K.D. is apparently having a ton of meaningful impact on younger players, including one budding guard for the Knicks.
Durant Has Offer for Immanuel Quickley
Immanuel Quickley, a 6-foot-3 guard for the Knicks, was selected with the 25th overall pick in last year’s draft. Almost immediately, it became apparent the Kentucky product was the steal of the class.
Quickly, a second team all-rookie honoree, played in 64 games in his first NBA season, averaging 11.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, two assists and 1.8 3-pointers in 19.4 minutes per game. He was a vital piece off the bench for a Knicks team that surprised fans and analysts this past season.
With all of that in mind, it wasn’t all that surprising when Quickley was named to the U.S. Select Team, which is training with Team USA in Las Vegas to help it prepare for the Tokyo Olympics. It also means Quickley has a shot to fill in himself on Team USA, if needed, for any exhibition games.
“When I was selected to the Select Team I was really excited, really grateful,’’ Quickley said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Just to get to pick people’s brains, like talking to Kevin Durant today. Just being around the best pros and best basketball players in the world is a great experience.”
Speaking of Durant, the 32-year-old apparently extended an offer to Quickley, who is 10 years his junior.
“Just talking to KD today and he told me we can get some work in when we’re here,” Quickley told reporters on Wednesday, via SNY. “That’s probably the best thing any of these guys can say. They’re willing to work out with us and teach us. That was one of the best things I heard today.’’
Quickley Soaking in as Much as He Can in Vegas
Quickley is getting offers like the one he received from Durant. He’s squaring off daily against the likes of K.D., Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal. And he’s being coached by Erik Spoelstra.
In short, learning opportunities don’t get much better.
“I feel like my biggest strength this year was probably just being able to make plays,’’ Quickley said of his rookie NBA season, via Berman. “I feel like that was something I didn’t and everyone didn’t see in college. But just being able to play with the ball in my hands, on the ball, being able to make plays for myself and teammates.
“Being here at USA Basketball, I’m just trying to work on things that I didn’t necessarily show last year which is my midrange game, my pull-up, creating for my teammates and consistently running a team, which I’ve been doing here, playing a lot of point guard. It’s been a great experience. Defense [is] another thing, getting stronger.“I don’t feel like it’s just one thing. If it was just one thing I’d be the best player in the world but I’m not.”