Kemba Walker on Knicks future: ‘I want to play’

Knicks Kemba Walker black jersey step back boston

The Knicks may have lost another game on Saturday, but the story was guard Kemba Walker’s return to the lineup after coach Tom Thibodeau removed him from the rotation weeks ago and what that could mean for his future in New York.

A rash of injuries and players in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol led Thibodeau to start Walker in Boston against the Celtics. Walker, who hasn’t played since Nov. 26, met the challenge with his best game of the season. The 31-year-old scored a season-high 29 points and showed a renewed aggressiveness and scoring ability that made him a multi-time All-Star.

“I’ve just been working. Me and my guy [Knicks assistant coach] Johnnie Bryant, we’ve been in the gym continuously working,” Walker said after the game. “Just trying to stay ready. I appreciate [Bryant] for putting in the time with me and keeping me prepared.”

The offensive outburst on Saturday is what the Knicks were hoping to get when they signed Walker to a two-year $18 million deal in free agency. Even Thibodeau was pleased with Walker’s game on Saturday, albeit abrupt with his praise.

“[He] played really well,” Thibodeau said. “Really well.”

Unfortunately, for both sides, Kemba’s start with the Knicks was less-than-great. He averaged less than 13 PPG in 19 games played this season, after averaging nearly 20 for his career. That coupled with Kemba’s below-average play on defense made Thibodeau come to the decision to take his high-profile free agent out of the rotation, a move he said was “best for the team.”

In the weeks since the demotion, the Knicks went 2-7 and found themselves with a record under .500.

After Saturday’s game Walker told reporters he “hates” not being in the lineup and was asked whether he wants to remain with the Knicks.

“I want to play,” he said. “I don’t know. So it is what it is.”

He added: “I don’t know what the future holds, you know? I do feel like I have a lot to give still. I don’t know. That’s up to these guys.”

Story continues

Despite his best game as a Knick, Thibodeau would not commit to Walker being brought back to the rotation saying simply, “We’ll see. You have to look at everything in totality.”

“I know I should be playing, so no question. It feels great,” Walker said of his performance on Saturday after spending time on the bench. “But whatever situation I’m in, I’m gonna stay locked in, stay prepared. Whatever the team needs from me, I’ll be there for them.”

And need him the Knicks will. With several guards down with injuries or in the league’s health and safety protocols, it’s likely that Walker will continue to see minutes over the next few games.

Interestingly enough, Walker revealed that he and Thibodeau haven’t talked about his role with the Knicks in recent weeks. However, Walker continues to stay ready and keep himself available whenever the team needs him.

“I’m here for my team, I’m here for my teammates. I can’t say it enough. Whatever’s asked of me, that’s what I’m here for,” he said.

The Knicks return home to take on the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.


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