Sophomore jinx is a longstanding NBA expression for a player who stood out as a rookie but took a backslide his second season for multiple reasons.
Perhaps the newness of the player’s game no longer is fresh and opposing clubs have adjusted to his style.
Immanuel Quickley was selected Second Team All-Rookie last season — an accomplishment that escaped RJ Barrett.
But the Knicks combo guard started the 2021-22 season along that jinxed pathway for some second-year players. Until Milwaukee happened.
The ever-popular Quickley was excellent in the second half of Friday’s road game to help propel the Knicks to their potent, come-from-21-points-behind victory over the Bucks.
Quickley scored just nine points but was a plus-18, had three steals and made 4 of 9 shots, including 1 of 3 3-pointers. “He gave us really good minutes,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
It was the first true “Quickley Sighting” of a subpar start to his second season. “It was our chemistry,” Quickley said of the comeback.
Ever the brash Kentucky guy, Quickley sounded hardly worried.
“I don’t think it’s really a slump,” said Quickley, who is shooting 30.4 percent from the field, 22.6 percent from 3-point land. “I haven’t made some shots but it’s a long season. It’s not a 10-game season. It’s an 82-game season. I just continue to stay in the gym, work hard, trust God and I’ll keep my confidence high.”
Quickley has just one double-figure outing — in that massive road rout of Orlando on Oct. 22 when he scored 16 points.
His numbers are down across the board; he’s averaging just 5.7 points, down from 11.4 last season. His minutes have decreased, too, from 19 to 14 per game.
Quickley said the coaches have encouraged him to keep the same mindset. The downward trend with his 3-point prowess started in the Las Vegas summer league. Strictly used as the starting point guard running the show, Quickley appeared off kilter with his 3-point shooting and wound up finishing just 12 of 50 from beyond the arc in five games in August.
“It’s an 82-game season,” Quickley said. “I’m not too worried about it. That just means I’ll play great the rest of the season if I’m not playing great right now. They just told me to be myself, which means have confidence, play hard and keep your energy on the floor. That’s what I continue to do.”
One theory is the officiating rules have changed where players trying to draw fouls with non-basketball moves aren’t getting the calls. Quickley was the king of such maneuvers as a rookie.
“Yeah, it’s a lot more physical,” Quickley said. “When you’re going to the rack, we’re not getting as many calls — as you can see against Indiana. This game (vs. Milwaukee) we didn’t get to the line as much as we did last year. So we adjust to how it’s called. We shoot a lot more 3s now too. We just make an adjustment to how it’s called.”
Knicks executive William Wesley and former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne implored GM Scott Perry and president Leon Rose to select Quickley 25th in the 2020 draft because of his potential to be a premier 3-point shooter. And that has to change.
Starting PG Kemba Walker will sit out Sunday’s first leg of a back-to-back set — a routine he had last season in Boston. Walker has struggled the past two games, scoring nine points combined.