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John Wall arrived at the Garden on Saturday for his first game there since putting up 18 points on Dec. 3, 2018.
Yeah, it’s been that long.
The newest member of the Rockets is delighted to be back and delighted he will see another Kentucky point guard making good.
Wall, who starred at Kentucky in 2009-10, still keeps close tabs on John Calipari’s program. And the longtime Wizard has gotten a chance to know Knicks rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, who hails from Baltimore and played two seasons for Kentucky.
Wall visited Kentucky last season during a rehab, catching the Wildcats’ game against Florida. Quickley scored a career-high 26 points with Wall watching.
“It was crazy,” Quickley said afterward. “[He’s] one of the best point guards to ever come out of [Kentucky], so it’s really cool just to see him come back and give love.”
In 2016, Quickley admitted in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader he was interested in the Wildcats because of Wall.
“Obviously, everybody knows John Wall,” Quickley said in 2016. “He can get up and down the court in three, four dribbles. And he gets everybody involved. That’s just one of the many point guards from John Calipari that I’ve watched.”
Last February, Wall even made a video with Quickley.
“I watched him play in Baltimore before,’’ Wall said over Zoom on Thursday night. “I’ve talked to him before he went to Kentucky. We did a little video together when I watched them play last year.”
Quickley has come off the bench for the Knicks across the first 27 games and his career has received a new jolt with the arrival of Derrick Rose.
Social media fretted Rose would adversely affect Quickley’s minutes. Au contraire.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has made Rose and Quickley a backcourt tandem off the bench. Austin Rivers has been demoted to cheerleader status à la Theo Pinson.
“He’s someone I respect,’’ Wall said. “I’m very happy for him to get the opportunity. I’m glad he’s showing people he’s more than just a shooter. That’s a lot of what people thought. The way he runs the point-guard position has been good. It’s going to be good to go against him.”
Buoyed by a 12-15 start, the Knicks will try to overcome the massive loss of Mitchell Robinson, the shot-blocking center who makes their highly rated defense hum, to a hand fracture. Robinson also is a force inside for offensive rebounds and alley-oops.
Quickley — and fellow rookie lottery pick Obi Toppin — are going to have to come through more than ever now.
“They’re a team that plays hard,’’ said Wall, who did not play last season and had his 2018-19 season cut short by a heel injury before a torn Achilles. “You know how Thibs plays [his teams]. Julius [Randle] is playing good and D-Rose just went over there and we all know what he’s about. They’re a good team on the rise.’’
In the video, which filmed on the Kentucky campus, Quickley asked Wall for tips heading into March Madness, which was never played because of the pandemic. That probably was a bonus for the Knicks because Quickley would have been on a huge stage and was just coming into his own as a first-round talent.
Still, mock-draft projections had Quickley going in the mid-second-round — which surprised Calipari. The Kentucky coach told The Post recently he felt Quickley deserved to be picked in the teens — in the same range as the 76ers’ own Kentucky pick, Tyrese Maxey.
“Keep playing at the level you’re playing at now, with that kind of confidence. Like Coach said, I think you were shying away from taking a couple of shots, you have to be aggressive,’’ Wall said in the video.
Now Rose has become Quickley’s mentor, and it’s going better than imagined. On the first night Rose joined the Knicks in Miami, he sat with Toppin and Quickley during the team dinner and told the duo he was here to help.
Rose knew of the scuttlebutt on social media.
Rose and Quickley combined for 30 points and were a combined plus-34 in Friday’s blowout win over the undermanned Wizards. Rose also had four steals.
“You think it’s chemistry out there already?’’ Rose asked in Washington. “It’s only the second game. I’m trying to do my job of putting pressure in the paint and trying to hit guys that’s open and play hard on defense. If I do that, everything just falls into place. But I’m trying to get everybody’s trust on the team by letting them know that if you run, you get the ball and so far it’s working.”
Wall, too, is having a surprisingly solid season after such a long layoff, averaging 18 points and shooting better than he ever has from 3-point range. Houston has won the swap for Russell Westbrook.
The Knicks faced Westbrook on Friday and the former Rockets point guard does not look like he has the same jets.
It’s a good thing Knicks president Leon Rose passed on making a huge offer to the Rockets for Westbrook. And it’s a good thing Leon Rose had the intel to select Quickley at 25.
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