Knicks rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley was so good again Friday, it prompted questions of whether coach Tom Thibodeau will consider making him the starter over Elfrid Payton.
Quickley closed the game, a 106-103 loss at Cleveland, and there’s a notion he might as well start at this stage after piling up 23 points in 27 minutes with three assists. He was a plus-11 while Payton finished a minus-14. Quickley now has reeled off two solid outings after a four-game slump He finished with 19 points in Wednesday’s loss to the Nets.
Thibodeau was noncommittal.
“It’s a function of the group’s playing well together,’’ Thibodeau said after the Knicks’ fifth straight loss. “So we need everybody. We’re working guys back that were out so we’re not into a rhythm yet. We’re still evaluating. So we’ll keep evaluating, we’ll keep working to improve and then we’ll find the best combinations to go forward with. But we’re constantly evaluating and talking about who plays well with whom. And if something can help the team, we’ll do it.’’
Thibodeau added “everything is on the table.’’
The former Kentucky star was spectacular coming off the bench, exploding for 12 points in 11 minutes with two assists in the first half. Quickley shot 5-for-8 from the field by intermission. He cooled off a bit in the second half, but finished 3 of 7 from 3-point land.
Quickley, who was selected with the 25th pick of the first round in November, found creases in Cleveland’s defense and got the Knicks to a five-point lead playing mostly with the “Quickley Quintet’’ that had killed the Cavaliers in preseason.
The only difference in the young five-man band was Reggie Bullock in RJ Barrett’s place.
“Just try to make plays for my teammates,’’ Quickley said. “I think coaches and teammates give me a lot confidence, a lot of freedom to be able to do what I do. So it’s a big credit to them. But we came up a little bit short. I feel like we had a chance to win. So it’s disappointing we didn’t.’’
Thibodeau, on the Nets officially adding James Harden to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: “James has been a great player in the league for a long time. But it’s not really my concern until we play against them. But he’s a terrific player and a great addition for the Nets.” … Rookie Obi Toppin, in his second game back, played just 10 minutes with two points, but no field goals. With Mitchell Robinson hobbled after landing awkwardly following a missed dunk, Thibodeau would have played Taj Gibson for the first time, but Nerlens Noel (six blocks) was rolling defensively.