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Why Jalen Brunson and the Knicks' Local Pro-Am Expedition Was More Than Just a Game: 'Showing Love to the City'

Bernard Bowen expected a big night that included Knicks forward Obi Toppin in the doubleheader of the Nike Pro City Pro-Am League quarterfinal playoff game.

But this was far beyond his highest aspirations. Because Toppin wasn't the only one to show up to play for the Hoopsville team on Monday night.He also had two of his Knicks teammates,Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. has been added.His $104 million Point Guard.

team newly signed crowd at Hostos Community College in the Bronx was standing room only. It was romantic summer basketball at its best, and the big star immersed himself in the community.

"It was emotional," Bowen, his tournament director, told The Post. "You're talking about Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. They're the face of the Knicks. They're the biggest players. They came to town to show their love and play. It was so dope for them."

Despite the excitement, Randle, Toppin and Brunson fell short and lost 110-97 to Ave Life A.L.F., who led Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall) and Jordan Washington (Iona). ), a team featuring local products that have become college stars such as , Jordan Aaron (UW-Milwaukee) and Deshua Buy (Hofstra).

Obi Toppin with the New York Knicks participated in the Pro City Playoffs at Hostos Community College Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Bronx.
Robert Sabo

As expected, the Knicks team's loss was met with plenty of jokes on social media, but Bowen called them Randle handled trash talk from several fans well, he said, and Branson chose to play his first match in New York City as Nick at the event.The Nike Pro City game was It's free, Bowen noted, and at least a few hundred dollars cheaper than watching Randall, Toppin and Branson play at the Garden in November.

"That's right," Bowen said. "They... New York City, the basketball culture, the kids are watching it. The city needed that kind of energy. It was an epic night." turns out to be Aaron.Wings He is a former star of the Academy and UW He is Milwaukee, and last played abroad for England in 2016. professional amateur league. The 29-year-old Bronx native scored his 39th against the Knicks' trio.

"I hope this proves that I can still play anyone and that I can still get a chance," said 5 Feet, who works as an outreach specialist at Phipps Neighborhoods. Aaron of 10 said. "This is one of the best moments. I came in with a chip on my shoulder. I didn't walk on the court with the big names in the league. I don't care who's in front of me." It was huge for me to be able to play my game regardless.”

Julius Randle with the New York Knicks participated in the Pro City Playoffs at Hostos Community College Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Bronx.
Robert Sabo

Ideally, he hopes his big night will open some doors leading to a return to professional basketball overseas. Be that as it may, Aaron was clearly thrilled to share the court with the Knicks players, telling them he couldn't defend him, and made some silly talk.

He also had a poignant exchange with Branson after playing against him for the majority of the game. Aaron told his latest Nick that he's all worth the big deal.

"He was really grateful," said Aaron. "He said 'thank you' to me, and I think that's probably what's on his mind. I want him to know real players who play ball and really play basketball."

Milwaukee Panthers guard Jordan Aaron (0) drives to the hoop during the Horizon League men's basketball championship game in March 2014.
Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Easy Speaking of which, it was a night Aaron and Bowen agreed they would remember for a long time.

said. "It was a crazy atmosphere. One of the best games I've played in New York."

Old is new again for IQ

Immanuel Quickley's role this season will likely return to his rookie-year role, having played mostly off-ball and serving as the Microwave's off-scorer. bench. Without injury, he wouldn't have to play with the ball. The addition of Jaylen Brunson and the return of Derrick Rose should allow Quickley to focus on his strengths: scoring.

But that doesn't mean he hasn't yet worked on his skills on the ball. In fact, Quickley has spent this offseason honing his playmaking.

"We're focused on his passing. We've put a lot of effort into passing from the pick-and-roll," said Quickley's trainer, Miami, his whoops at his school. 's Andrew Morant told the Post. "Early pocket, late pocket, find a corner shooter coming out of the pick-and-roll." . Compared to his rookie year, he had about 4 more minutes per game and scoring remained the same, but his 3-point percentage dropped from 38.9 to 34.6. Part of that could be attributed to Rose and Kemba using the ball more as his walker was injured, and he increased his assists per game average from his 2.0 to 3.5.

Immanuel Quickley #5 of the New York Knicks goes up for a lay up during the fourth quarter. The New Orleans Pelicans defeat The New York Knicks 102-91.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But Morant and Quickley has put a lot of effort into off-the-ball play this summer, trying to improve his layup package to complement his floater game. One of the specific areas he focused on was to be open without the ball.

"Let's say he gives up the ball," says Morant, who has worked with Tim Hardaway Jr., Lois O'Neill and Tyler Herro. Setting up the screen for the guy, getting off the screen, moving, chasing the ball, chasing the handoff...we focused on that and let him have space for himself off the ball."

In many ways, Quickly is at a loss. His role will change. Also, if the Knicks can get jazz star Donovan his Mitchell, he could be impressing. It's a tough place for young players, but Quickley tries to keep the noise out.

"We weren't really paying attention to what other people were doing," Morant said. "We wanted to focus on improving ourselves as players and how we could impact winning with the Knicks.

In terms of that, he's an asset to the Knicks and could be an asset to many teams.I don't know what the Knicks are thinking or wanting to do with him or what the situation is. What he and I are trying to do is be prepared for every situation and opportunity that comes his way."