Knicks: Kyle O’Quinn Emerging as a Locker Room Leader


Few players have done quite as much for themselves during the 2015 NBA preseason as Kyle O’Quinn. In four appearances, O’Quinn has recorded two double-doubles and another performance with 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

The preseason only counts for so much, but O’Quinn has thus far justified his four-year contract with his versatility, physicality and tenacity.

Off the court, O’Quinn has been earning even more respect amongst his coaches and peers. Not only is he being praised for his infectious personality, but he’s developing into something of an influential figure.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Posthead coach Derek Fisher has already come to recognize O’Quinn as a leader in the locker room.

"“You always hear his voice, and you hear the voice in the room,’’ Fisher said. “That alone was why we were so excited to try to sign him this summer. Our locker room was too quiet [last season]. He does have a presence. He has some leadership qualities that are good for us.’’"

That’s high praise for a 25-year-old who’s entering a locker room flush with veterans, including Carmelo Anthony, Arron Afflalo, Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez.

It’s also a pleasant surprise after rumors of a divide between O’Quinn and his previous coaching staff.

O’Quinn is already loved by his teammates, but that didn’t translate well to his relationship with the Orlando Magic’s men in charge. He was often benched in 2014-15, thus damaging any chance he had of developing a rhythm.

O’Quinn opened up about his experience in Orlando, including the surprising decision to bench him with relative consistency.

"“Was I surprised?’’ asked O’Quinn, who played in just 51 of 82 games last season. “After you sit one game, you sit two. After you sit two, you sit four, then you sit eight. Then you get more down on yourself and start doing extra workouts to pick up confidence. I was more disappointed. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough because obviously I wasn’t getting the time. I knew my time would come.’’"

O’Quinn’s time is coming—just not in Orlando.

Standing at 6’10” and 250 pounds with a near 7’5″ wingspan, O’Quinn is positionally versatile. He has the strength and length to play center, as well as the offensive game to work the 4.

That alone should earn him minutes in 2015-16.

O’Quinn isn’t elite in any one area, but he does a bit of everything well. He competes for loose balls and offensive rebounds, can step outside with 3-point range and passes very well for a player of his size.

With a desired improvement as a low-post scorer—he went to the post just 22 times in 2014-15, per—O’Quinn could thrive in the Triangle Offense.

Unfortunately for O’Quinn, he won’t be the Knicks’ starting power forward in 2015-16; that honor belongs to rookie Kristaps Porzingis. The good news is that O’Quinn is not discouraged by this development.

Instead, he’s showing exactly why his teammates and coaches respect him: he values the success of his team over the success of himself as an individual.

"“Just being in the mix is the best thing for me, whether starting, first big off the bench, second sub off the bench. It doesn’t matter, as long as I’m in the mix. It’s a team game. Whatever the team needs, even if I am sacrificing some time for another player.’’"

With that type of mentality, O’Quinn will have no trouble maintaining a significant role within the rotation.

O’Quinn has already emerged as a fan favorite for his relentless motor and fearless physicality. He’s a throwback to the Knicks teams of the 1990s, when blue collar players thrived and led New York to a pair of NBA Finals appearances.

He’s nowhere near the legend of Anthony Mason or Charles Oakley, but O’Quinn is already proving to be an invaluable commodity in the Knicks’ locker room.

Next: A healthy Jose Caldeorn is excited by what he and the Knicks can achieve in 2015-16

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