When fate meets faith: Knicks’ Quickley rises as big-time shotmaker

Quickley, Knicks

Immanuel Quickley ran to the corner. He received the pass. Set his feet squarely on the floor. Then a quick release. His follow-through stayed in the same position until the ball touched the net—poetry in motion.

Quickley’s corner 3 gave Kentucky its first lead of the second half, 58-57, against eventual NBA top overall pick Anthony Edwards and Georgia. It was the first meeting between the two SEC schools in January last year, 10 months ahead of the NBA Draft. Quickley’s big shot fueled the Wildcats win over the Bulldogs and perhaps his wild journey to the New York Knicks.

After the game, Dice Yoshimoto, who was Georgia’s director of basketball strategy and video at that time, quickly called Tom Thibodeau.

“Watch this kid, Quickley,” Thibodeau said of his conversation with Yoshimoto last year. “He’s like all the small guards that we had in Chicago. He said he had saved every big shot for Kentucky.”

At that time, Thibodeau was out of the league. He was still looking for his next NBA job. Still, that did not stop Thibodeau from following Quickley’s rise to becoming SEC’s Player of the Year under John Calipari at Kentucky. He called William Wesley (World Wide Wes), a powerful behind-the-scenes NBA power broker and a close friend of Calipari, to learn more about Quickley.

“Wes gave me the background on him. And so I continued [ watching him]. I don’t know where I was going to be, but he was someone who was on our radar,” Thibodeau said.

Five months after that phone call, Thibodeau and Wesley found themselves together in New York, tasked to help their close friend Leon Rose rebuild the Knicks franchise. Two months later, Yoshimoto rejoined Thibodeau in his staff. Kenny Payne, Calipari’s top assistant at Kentucky, also joined the Knicks, bringing a wealth of inside intel on Quickley.

Calipari had a glowing recommendation of Quickley ahead of the NBA Draft.

“Immanuel Quickley was the Player of the Year in our league. He’s right up there with the hardest workers spending the most time in the gym, most committed players that I’ve ever had,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media via Zoom call one month before the 2020 NBA Draft. “You better give him a second, third, or fourth look before you pass on him because he’s another one.”

“He spaces the court because he’s making threes. It’s what everybody knows. It’s where the league is going right now? You better be able to make threes. If you can’t, you better have some unbelievable talent; you better have ESP or something like that if you can’t shoot. The game has changed,” Calipari added.

Thibodeau didn’t need more convincing. It did the opposite as it took away some of the Knicks’ advantage on Quickley. Rival teams scampered to get a hold of the quick-rising prospect.

Quickley met with all NBA teams except the Portland Trail Blazers, who shipped their first-round pick for Robert Covington. The Knicks were one of the six teams who interviewed Quickley twice.

“As far as the Knicks are concerned, I think they know more about him more than anybody team in the NBA,” Jide Sodipo, Quickley’s trainer, told Empire Sports Media ahead of the draft.

It proved prescient.

Upon Thibodeau’s recommendation to get a shooter, Wesley reportedly pressed Rose and other front-office members to get Quickley on draft night. Some major sports outlets nitpicked that pick as a reach, but Quickley proved them wrong. He turned out to be a revelation in his rookie year.

On Monday night, it came full circle for Yoshimoto as Quickley did precisely the same play that made him text Thibodeau on that fateful night in January last year.

Quickley’s go-ahead corner 3 with 5:03 left fueled a gut-check 92-84 win over the Indiana Pacers that snapped their two-game losing skid.

Quickley tied Kemba Walker with a team-high 16 points on 4 of 4 three-pointers, each shot a big one.

He was in middle school when Walker had his Cardiac Kemba moment at Madison Square Garden.

The energy and the vibe of that shot and the celebration never left his mind. Quickley always dreamed of hitting big shots on the Garden floor. That’s one of the reasons why Quickley hops up and down the length of the floor in celebration of every big shot he makes.

“It’s just fun playing in the Garden. I ain’t gonna lie. The energy is just crazy,” Quickley said.

The shifty guard quickly became a fan-favorite in New York ever since his signature floater and a long three-pointer became a New York staple as a rookie.

So when Quickley hit the sophomore wall early this season, it was jarring to read a quarter of the #Knicks Twitter crucifying him. In his first nine games, Quickley’s shooting had regressed. He managed to make only 7 of his first 31 three-pointers. It wasn’t what everyone was expecting.

Quickley’s faith was tested. But he was unmoved and unafraid.

“I don’t really look at it as a slow start,” Quickely said. “I look at it as the ball wasn’t just going in and it’s eventually going to go in. The numbers are always going to fall in the place where they are supposed to.”

The early shooting slump did not deter Quickley. Instead, it drove him to work harder and cling to his faith tighter.

“Quick has to be the guy that’s in the gym the most out of everybody.” his teammate RJ Barrett said recently.

The Knicks’ Tarrytown practice facility became an extension of Quickley’s place, just 10 minutes away.

Quickley has always been a relentless worker who possesses a faith that is bigger than his trials. He got those two success-defining traits from his mother, Nitrease Quickley, the former Morgan State sharpshooter and currently a vice principal in Harford County, Md., and his father, Marcellous Quickley, a Christian pastor.

“If you just stick with it, you keep doing and keep working on all the things that you’re supposed to and keep your faith first, everything gonna falls into place,” Quickley said.

True enough, his shots began to fall. Over his last five games, Quickley’s numbers have risen to 13.0 points on a 49/56/92 shooting split, 2.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and only a single turnover in 21.5 minutes off the bench. He had connected on 14 of 25 3s. The last two were much needed by a struggling Knicks team on the brink. The first one tied the game at 74 against the Pacers and the second one, the go-ahead 3, lifted the Knicks over the hump.

“I think we all had a high sense of urgency. Coach [Thibodeau] stressed in the shootaround that we needed this one to get back on the right track,” Quickley said.

Quickley hitting big shot after big shot is nothing new to him and to people who know him. It’s the reason why Yoshimoto was so high on him. And it’s the same reason why Thibodeau and Wesley pushed for him in the draft.

“They (coaches and teammates) always give me a lot of confidence. Obviously, my faith is a big part of who I am so that gives me a lot of confidence when I’m on the floor, and then also I think playing at Kentucky where pretty much every game is a big game. So, it’s a combination of all that stuff,” Quickley said.

The former Nitrease Hamilton was Quickley’s first coach. She watched her son hit his first big shot when he was an eight, nine years old skinny kid. Since that moment, Quickley fell in love with the game.

“I hit a walk-off, stepback three for the game,” Quickley recalled. “Everybody was holding me up high. I’ll never forget that shot. It’s like a dream.”

Quickley is living his dream.

It was his fate to land on this Knicks team. It was his faith that guided him to navigate a difficult start to his sophomore season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Inside Ziaire Williams’ workout with Knicks: ‘World Wide Wes — that’s my guy’

ziaire williams, knicks

Ziaire Williams had a rough one-and-done season at Stanford, but he was impressive during his workouts. Will the New York Knicks reach for his high upside?

Ziaire Williams had a roller-coaster ride to the NBA doorstep.

Two years ago, he was on top of the world playing with Bronny James and Zaire Wade and high-fiving LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“Oohhhh Man! I feel like that prepared me so much,” Williams said on Tuesday during his NBA Draft media availability. “The travel alone – we traveled like 30,000 miles that season. It was a really fun experience.”

“I had to meet great teammates who I call brothers now. I got super close to Dwyane Wade and LeBron. They were just super helpful to me in learning about basketball stuff. It was really just a blessing to be a part of that.”

He was clutch, and he was a leader. He was the best player in a stacked, celebrated Sierra Canyon team. 

Then came the rough part of the ride. He was in and out of the Stanford lineup during his lone college year due to medical and personal reasons. He showed glimpses of his potential averaging 10.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.6 blocks, 0.9 steals, with a 37/29/79 shooting split which leaves a lot to be desired.

The talent and potential are there. Like when he posted the second triple-double in program history with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists against Washington last January. But the inconsistency he showed in his one-and-done season has brought a lot of question marks causing him to drop in some NBA Draft Boards.

Projected to go in the mid to the latter part of the first round, Williams worked out with 10 NBA teams hoping to erase those doubts and buy into his potential as a big 3-and-D wing. That includes a two-player workout with the Knicks who are eyeing wings and shooting in this draft.

“It was a great workout and it was intense. It was just me and another player I have little contact with. I love it there. World Wide Wes – that’s my guy, man! He’s a character,” Williams said.

World Wide Wes is, of course, the Knicks executive vice president William Wesley, the animated Leon Rose’s right-hand man. He embodies the Knicks’ burning desire to move up in the NBA’s upper echelon and has a big voice in the front office.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Tom Thibodeau, the team’s head coach, usually reserved with measured words and moves who served as the rock of a young Knicks team that went on a surprising playoff run last season.

“I met coach Thibodeau, all the guys. [They have] super great staff. You can tell it’s genuine and they’re passionate about their jobs. So, I would love to go to the Knicks for sure,” Williams said.

Then he quickly added before everything got out of context: “I would love to go to any team. I don’t have favorites. I just want to go to a team that’s the right spot for me, a team that believes in me and that’s gonna help me become the player that I could become.”

Williams spent time watching the Knicks last season, especially in the playoffs, where he saw the glaring hole he hopes he could fill if they select him on Thursday.

“I know they could use a wing who can shoot and is versatile like me. They’re very scrappy and gritty, who’s gonna defend before anything – that’s a big thing that Thibodeau preaches,” Williams said. “It all starts with hunger. So [what I can bring is] just playing hard and work ahead of the man in front of you. [Help in] executing the plays down the stretch, listening to the game plan, and executing as a team.”

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has the Knicks picking up Williams with the 21st pick if they don’t move up in the draft. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic slots him to go to Oklahoma City at no. 18. Jonathan Givony of ESPN projects Williams to go to Atlanta with the 20th pick but noted that he had gained traction following solid workouts “that showed there’s more to his game than scouts saw in his disrupted season at Stanford.”

Williams prides himself on being a student of the game that may bode well in his NBA career. LeBron James was his first memory of NBA basketball, and it was a dream come true for him to get close to him. He also loved Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway. He marveled at Kobe Bryant’s competitive fire and looked up to Kevin Durant’s elevation as a future all-time great despite having a reed-thin body similar to his frame.

When asked if he has a list of players he’s excited to face in the NBA, his revealing answer provided a window to his mindset and approach to the game that makes you think the Stanford saga was just a blip to his promising basketball career.

“I want to play them all. I want to see for myself what makes them so good,” Williams said. “And then I’m going to back to the film and try to take the little details of the moves they used on me. That’s my thing.”

Growing up in a family with a strong military background, Williams learned at a young age how to stay disciplined and game plan to accomplish whatever mission he has set for himself.

“I know my first year, I’m really just going and gonna learn as much as possible whether that’s from my team or players from other teams. I really just gonna set the standard to follow a routine that I really want to set for myself for the first couple of years so that the rest should be easier and to have a long career,” Williams said.

Some prospects are fixated on how to impress teams during workouts and meetings. But while that’s also a priority for Williams, he made sure the learnings during the whole predraft process won’t get swept under the rug.

“A lot of things have popped up like when I was in Oklahoma City, the coach over there, we were talking about all the analytics and how I love to go to midrange. He was just telling me how the game has transformed. He’s telling me it’s better to be open-minded,” said Williams who took that advice to heart.

“He brought up the analogy of the Kodak camera. They didn’t do anything to improve so they’re now out of business and all the Twitter, Instagram stuff has taken over. So he was telling me the same way that if you’re not open-minded to changing and try different ways to get to the rim, that will kind of make your game obsolete based on the analytics so to speak.

“I can be just like Kodak, out of business one day. That was really helpful,” he added. “So, I just go in and learn and find ways how to get into the paint or maybe instead of the contested two-pointer, maybe stepback and create for 3. That’s just an example of something that I have learned throughout this pre-draft process.”

Williams has the right mindset. Now, it’s time for him to get his body right. At 188.4 lbs, he’s too skinny for his size. That’s one of the knocks on his game at Stanford, where he shied away from contact and couldn’t handle physicality well. Much of his upside is tied with his projection to become a long, athletic defender who can guard multiple positions.

But he’s just 19. His body will mature, and the hope is his game will follow.

Based on how Williams sounded in interviews, he says all the right things.

“Personality-wise, I’m energetic, super respectful, and a caring person. I’m all for the team. I play the game, not for myself but to win. I hate to lose,” Williams said.

His answer to the one question that always pops up during his interview with the teams makes him a safe bet in the mid-teens of the first round.

“They asked me what goals do I have, and I answered I want to be an NBA champion, first and foremost. Because I love winning. I’m more about sacrificing for the team than anything,” Williams said.

Spoken like a star role player in a contending team.

His roller-coaster ride brought him highs and lows, but the learnings along the way weren’t lost on him. It’s a solid foundation to have as he begins his NBA journey.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Beal or No Deal: Knicks reportedly interested in Beal; Barrett on the move?

knicks, rj barrett, bradley beal

Is Bradley Beal New York-bound?

Beal remained adamant that he’s not quitting on the Washington Wizards. But an influential New York Knicks executive is reportedly cooking up a Beal trade.

Last week, Michael Kay reported that Knicks vice president and senior basketball advisor William Wesley, more famously known as World Wide Wes, is working through back channels to land Beal in New York.

“I’ve got it from a very good source that the Knicks are quietly interested in a Bradley Beal. How’s that gonna happen? He’s signed to a long-term deal. He has not said he wanted to be traded. But you forget, the Knicks have World Wide Wes on their side. He’s been in the ears of some of Beal’s people and kinda nudging them that this might be the time to push for a trade,” Kay said on his ESPN radio show last week.

Brightest star in the biggest market

Beal is fresh from getting his first All-Star starter nod, ranking first in fans, media, and players’ votes among all Eastern Conference guards. He’s leading the league in scoring with a career-high 32.8 points per game on 47/34/90 shooting splits. The 27-year old star is also putting up career-best 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. But despite his spectacular numbers, the Wizards are in the bottom three in the East though they have won their last three games.

On the flip side, things are getting rosy in New York. The Knicks are in the playoff conversations and are quickly becoming an attractive destination. New team president Leon Rose, along with Williams and head coach Tom Thibodeau, has dramatically changed New York’s culture.

The appeal to Beal in New York is a chance to become the biggest star in the biggest NBA market. And if he wins in New York, that will cement his basketball legacy.

Aggressive buyer

Along with their early on-court success, a treasure trove of picks, and a $15 million cap space, the Knicks are in a prime position to be an aggressive buyer in the trade market.

They own all their first-round picks plus two more from Dallas via the Kristaps Porzingis trade. All in all, the Knicks have seven first-round picks and eight second-rounders through the 2025 NBA Draft.

Stefan Bondy of the Daily News reported that the Knicks are also monitoring CJ McCollum’s situation in Portland. But ESPN’s Front Office Insider and former Brooklyn Nets’ assistant general manager Bobby Marks told Empire Sports Media that the Trail Blazers are not trading him.

Potential Beal package

If Beal and the Wizards decide to part ways, the asking price would be in the James Harden trade neighborhood.

When asked what the Wizards could seek from the Knicks in exchange for their long-time cornerstone, Marks told Empire Sports Media that it would require giving up both the first-round picks from Dallas (2021 unprotected, 2023 top-10 protected), a minimum of two unprotected first-round picks, pick swaps and sophomore swingman RJ Barrett. 

A package like that could still leave the Knicks in a good position to contend in the East with a core of Beal, Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Immanuel Quickley, all of whom are still under 30 years old and plenty of cap space to chase another star.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Divisional front office tweaks could indicate that ‘risk is the new safe’

New York Knicks, Leon Rose

There are a few significant coaching personnel and front office tweaks for New York Knicks fans to keep an eye on in the Atlantic Division, possibly. The Philadelphia 76ers hired Doc Rivers as Head Coach, then went on to hire Daryl Morey as Team President. The Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash as Head Coach, then went on to add Mike D’Antoni, Amare Stoudemire, and Ime Udoka to the assistant coaching staff.

76ers have their cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, while the Nets will finally have their stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving share the court. Of course, none of this matters if injuries keep occurring. Front office positioning also wouldn’t matter if there isn’t an improvement on the basketball court for the Nets and 76ers.

However, improvement to two playoff teams in Brooklyn and Philadelphia could rightfully steer the New York Knicks into an even stronger player developmental stance along with a maintained focus on young talent acquisition.

The Knicks won’t win anything now in the Eastern Conference, therefore, why not put all the emphasis on solidifying the foundation for the near future and long term? With fans being away from the game during the pandemic, Knicks have time to build without Madison Square Garden’s infamous fan and media impatience pouring pressure on the franchise and its young players.

Atlantic Divisional front office tweaks mentioned above could indicate that “risk is the new safe” for the New York Knicks moving forward, especially in the upcoming draft on November 18th, 2020.

The New York Knicks did their own coaching personnel and front office adjustment earlier this summer with the hiring of President Leon Rose, Executive Vice President/Senior Basketball Advisor William Wesley, former Utah Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin, former Utah Jazz Assistant Coach Johnny Bryant, former ten-year Assistant Coach of the Kentucky Wildcats Kenny Payne, and a new, yet seasoned Head Coach in Tom Thibodeau.

Leon Rose has plenty of connections due to his time as an agent with Creative Artists Agency. William Wesley, also known as “World Wide Wes,” is basically the most connected man in the entire basketball world period. Bill Simmons of The Ringer wasn’t afraid to touch on a rumor circulating the NBA regarding all the connections Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes” have in the entire basketball landscape.

Recently on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Simmons talked about NBA insiders having legit fear about the New York Knicks becoming the “Kentucky pipeline team.” Bill Simmons states the following on the podcast along with Kevin O’Conner:

 

 

There’s also a real fear in the NBA. I’m fine talking about this. It’s rumor, heresy stuff. But it’s just a fact. Kentucky, Worldwide Wes had a great relationship with John Calipari. CAA’s got multiple Kentucky guys and there’s a real fear in the league that the Knicks are going to become the Kentucky pipeline team.

 

 

Devin Booker is a great example of that, right? Even though he’s on a big deal right now, at some point if he wanted to move out of there…

 

 

The league is kind of watching the Kentucky factor with that team.

 

 

I think even [Anthony] Davis, if the Lakers hadn’t won the title this year, who knows? Right? Are we positive he would have stayed? I don’t know. All of the signs, all of the dialogue was like ‘LeBron and him love each other’. But who knows what would have happened?

Simmons believes there’s a CAA client that the Knicks love due to assumed access to extra intel and information on draft prospects as a result of Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes” CAA connections. Bill Simmons believes the Knicks will take advantage throughout the draft process.

With that being said, the Knicks are positioned for the future, whether it’s long-term or short-term. The focus is on player development, however, team development is the ultimate goal, and it could happen very soon with the help of Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes.”

In the upcoming draft, there are plenty of young prospects the Knicks could take a big home-run swing at. Knicks have many avenues available to them in terms of acquiring young talent. Whether it’s trading down in the draft or acquiring more draft picks on a contract dump from another team, the possibilities are exciting and endless. This points to an opportunistic approach for the Knicks to take on draft night. They may take chances on young prospects with very high ceilings. “Risk is currently the new safe” for the New York Knicks thanks to Leon Rose and “World Wide Wes.”

Kira Lewis, Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, Precious Achiuwa, Patrick Williams, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey, amongst others, are prospects suitable for the current Knick player developmental staff to hone into potential stars for the future of Knick basketball. A potential late first-round candidate to keep an eye on as a pure upside pick is the 6’10” 7’0″ wingspan 200 lbs Jaden McDaniels out of Washington University in Seattle, Washington.

November 18th will be a very interesting draft date due to so many scenarios involving all NBA teams in the lottery as well as salary cap implications. My advice, have your popcorn ready that night.

Knicks Draft Watch: John Calipari views Tyrese Maxey as smaller version of Jamal Murray

In the 2016 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks missed out on a big-time scoring guard from the University of Kentucky, the leading producer of NBA stars.

The Knicks’ lottery pick that year was earlier sent to the Denver Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster trade. The Nuggets used the Knicks’ original pick (seventh overall) to select former Wildcat Jamal Murray.

Murray, as it turned out, is the real deal and he quickly became one of the league’s rising stars. The Denver Nuggets guard’s sensational play in the NBA Bubble has left team executives who passed on him scratching their heads.

This year, another big-time scorer under John Calipari’s program has entered the NBA Draft. One-and-done freshman Tyrese Maxey could be the answer to the Knicks’ backcourt riddle with his dynamic scoring and moxie.

“I’m trying to tell everybody when you look at Tyrese, he’s a smaller version, but he’s still 6’2”, of Jamal Murray who is 6’5”. They both have that lower release. Everybody said Jamal would never get it off,” Calipari told Empire Sports Media during his Zoom call with select media on Monday.

Murray though came into the Draft as a projected top-five Lottery pick but somehow slipped a couple of notches down because of doubts whether he was athletic enough to thrive in the league.

He proved all the skeptics wrong as his game and his low released shot translated well in the NBA.

Maxey isn’t viewed as highly as Murray was. Most boards have Maxey as a late lottery pick in a Draft that has become as unpredictable as it hasn’t been in recent years. Aside from his apparent lack of size (6’1″ without shoes and with only 6’6″ wingspan), Maxey is facing the same questions Murray had in 2016.

“Jamal played with Tyler Ulis so [people] said, is he a point guard? They’re point guards. We’re teaching them to play with the ball and without the ball. And now it becomes: do they make game-winning shots? Are they that guy? Tyrese is,” said Calipari.

With the NBA heading into positionless basketball, Calipari believes Maxey’s switchability as a combo guard could work well to his advantage. He has the skills and speed to run the point and he has the moxie and court smarts to play off the ball.

Maxey proved early on that he has the chops of Calipari’s typical dynamic guard when he dropped 26 points in his college debut at the Madison Square Garden against Michigan State.

He went on to average 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game before the college season was cut short. He shot 42.7% from the field, 29.2% from three, and 83.3% from the stripes.

It wasn’t fancy particularly his shooting percentage from deep but the eye test suggests his impact on the game was way bigger than those numbers. Another reason for that, Calipari explained, is because Maxey played within the system just like the way Murray, and earlier, Devin Booker did that made them somewhat underrated ahead of the Draft. 

While Maxey is two inches shorter than those two former Kentucky guards, he possesses the same characteristics that make him such an intriguing prospect with a high ceiling.

Calipari pointed those out but also acknowledged the area where Maxey should focus on to reach his ceiling.

“Tyrese, physically, athletically and you know he’s a guy who’s blocking shots, rebounding the ball, has played dribble-drive and a downhill runner his whole life,” Calipari said. “He has to be more consistent with his shooting so did Jamal. But they played similar (roles) here.”

While it’s a pity that Maxey was robbed of the opportunity to show more of his wares on the big stage when the SEC and NCAA were scrapped, his body of work from high school, AAU to Team USA would be enough to tell you he’s got a chance to be special.

Before he went to Kentucky, he teamed up with Draft classmate Cole Anthony in the Team USA that obliterated the 2018 FIBA U18 Americas Championship.

Maxey averaged 8.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists against 0.5 turnovers, and 1.3 steals in 18 minutes. Anthony, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, averaged 14.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists against 2.7 turnovers, and 1.2 steals in 21 minutes.

During his short-lived stay at Kentucky, Maxey was on a tear late in the season, scoring 20 or more points five times before the stoppage.

“There are gonna be people who’ll pass on Tyrese that will regret liked how they passed on PJ (Washington) like how they passed on Shai (Gilgeous-Alexander), Jamal (Murray) and we can keep going,” Calipari said. “He’s gonna be that (type of player).”

Mike Schmitz, ESPN’s resident NBA Draft Analyst, shared the same view with Calipari when he appeared on Sports Center with Scott Van Pelt last week.

“He didn’t have eye-popping numbers at Kentucky. He was under 50 percent from 2, under 30 percent from 3, but you have to play a role there. You have to fit in. Coach Cal does a tremendous job of forcing these guys to buy into a role. It’s about winning for the team and you sacrifice there and that’s exactly what Maxey did,” Schmitz said.

But the one thing that stuck out on Schmitz is that Maxey is a big-time scorer.

“This kid is a bucket. I saw him at the high school level, I saw him with USA Basketball, and I think he’s a perfect fit in today’s NBA. You can try to poke holes in him. You can try to say, ‘He’s a 6-3 combo guard. He’s a scorer or he’s out of control.’ But it’s worked pretty well for Tyler Herro, for Jamal Murray, for Devin Booker.”

That type of dynamic scoring has been sorely lacking on the Knicks backcourt for the longest time now.

Calipari didn’t go into specifics about the Knicks’ interest in Maxey. But a  highly-placed source in Kentucky said that Calipari has been constantly talking to the Knicks.

During the course of Calipari’s interview, the well-decorated coach revealed that his travel was limited by the pandemic but noted that his only out-of-town trip so far was to New Jersey.

Knicks’ team president Leon Rose is from Cherry Hills, New Jersey while his good friend and senior advisor William “World Wide Wes” Wesley hails from Camden, New Jersey.

Calipari has strong ties with the Knicks front office, and more so with his former top deputy and key recruiter Kenny Payne who is now one of Tom Thibodeau’s assistant coaches.

Maxey should be available by the time the Knicks would pick at No. 8 based on most Mock Drafts. But he’s also a trade-down candidate as reported by Marc Berman of the New York Post.

NBA Draft analyst Matt Babcock of Babcock Hoops, meanwhile, views Maxey in a different light.

“I see (Tyrese) Maxey being a solid complementary role player at the next level, whereas (Jamal) Murray is a dynamic player and one of the NBA’s rising young stars,” Babcock told Empire Sports Media. “Murray is just in an entirely different category altogether.”

Babcock Hoops has Maxey at No. 28 in their Mock Draft. It’s going to be a big surprise if Maxey gets picked inside the Top 10.

“I do not think the Knicks should consider Maxey with the 8th pick. It would be too high in the draft for him, in my opinion. I actually think Maxey would be a more appropriate option for the Knicks with the 27th pick, if he were there, of course,” Babcock said.

Maxey has shades of Murray in his game. But there are also glaring questions that he must address.

Only time will tell if Maxey can hold up to Murray’s comparisons.

But as Murray’s game became bigger and louder in the recent NBA Bubble, it’s hard to imagine that this new front office given their link to Kentucky and Calipari would pass up on the opportunity to get a player of the same caliber.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Could Rebuilding Through The Draft Be Overrated?

New York Knicks

Rebuilding the New York Knicks through the NBA Draft with the use of acquired draft picks was a foreign thought process until General Manager Scott Perry joined former President Steve Mills in the front office. An unfortunate situation occurred for the Knicks in the hiring of former coach David Fizdale. Steve Mills lied to the Knick fan base by giving the impression of building through the draft if the Knicks whiff on the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sweepstakes. Instead of Steve Mills following through with his word, he went on to sign Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, and Reggie Bullock. The roster was a poor fit and the New York Knicks went on to have another disastrous season in which some of the young talent (Kevin Knox & Dennis Smith Jr.) actually regressed. Steve Mills believed he built a playoff team. David Fizdale got fired early December 2019 during the midst of a losing streak. Steve Mills got fired two days before the NBA Trade Deadline.

James Dolan hired a well connected former NBA Agent Leon Rose as President of the New York Knicks. Leon Rose made multiple hires in order to round out the Knick front office. One significant hire, Leon Rose made was that of Wesley Williams, also known as “World Wide Wes”. Wesley Williams is known as the most connected man in basketball period. With the new-look front office taking shape, many believe building through the draft would once again become a foreign thought process.

There are teams in the NBA that patiently built through the draft successfully. There are also teams who built their roster with a combination of great drafting, free agency, and great international scouting. Therefore, some are starting to believe that building through the draft is overrated due to the unlimited avenues of finding legit basketball talent.

However, trading draft picks at the drop of a dime is something the Knicks will hopefully stop doing. Give young talent time to blossom instead of trading picks for old veterans who will retire very soon.

Overall, a rebuild must be well balanced in terms of drafting talent, signing strong veterans in free agency, overall scouting, and good trades. The Knicks seem to have put specialized personnel within their front office positions respectively. Cohesion in the front office and thorough scouting with a balanced rebuild through drafting, free agency, international scouting, and G-League would be a major step in the right direction internally. Basketball minds making decisions is a plus for any organization.

New York Knicks: The Hiring Of One Executive Leaves Polarizing Effect

New York Knicks, James Dolan

On June 24th, 2020, the New York Knicks announced Wesley Williams as their new executive vice president/senior basketball adviser. Wesley, who’s a longtime friend of Knicks president Leon Rose and former consultant at Creative Arts Agency, is known for his relationships with star players around the NBA. He also previously worked with top coaching candidate Tom Thibodeau while at Creative Arts Agency.

The Knicks hiring of William Wesley, also known as “World Wide Wes” as the next Executive Vice President, has garnered hot and cold reactions. Two opposite kinds of reactions and the lack of a lukewarm reception of the hiring makes one wonder the real reason for the hiring of William Wesley, leaving such a polarizing effect amongst certain former players and media.

Stephon Marbury’s reaction towards the hiring of the new Knicks Executive Vice President was of disbelief along with anger, and the reaction also seemed personal. Marbury expressed displeasure as a Knick fan; however, he never fully expressed in detail on why he felt the way he expressed about the hire.

Former Knick Rasheed Wallace didn’t sound too optimistic about the Leon Rose and William Wesley hire either. Wallace mentioned possibilities of other agents getting revenge on Leon Rose by spurning opportunities of current NBA stars and potential stars making their way to the Knicks via free agency. Wallace claimed the reason this could happen is due to the possibility of Leon Rose or William Wesley spurning or doing no favors for other agents while in their former positions. Could their past come back to bite them? That remains to be seen.

Wallace said the following on CBS Sports Radio:

“I mean damn, it’s been getting worse. We all think it can’t be no [worse], they’re going to hit rock bottom, but they keep going lower and lower. I’m just a little confused by it all, if you ask me. It’s one thing to have a former agent and agency coming in and giving you their input here and there, but to hire them full time, you’re taking on a lot. Because now, unfortunately [James] Dolan’s taking on their baggage.”