New York Knicks point guard Kemba Walker has been out of the rotation and has missed 10 straight games before the Knicks' last game against the Boston Celtics. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has left Walker out of the lineup due to his poor defense and solid play by other guards. However, with COVID-19 running rabid through the NBA, Thibodeau had no choice but to play the former All-Star guard.
Kemba Walker is averaging 12.6 points, 3.1 assists and 25.2 minutes per game (19 appearances), with a 112 defensive rating per 100 possessions. In his first game back in the starting lineup, Walker played 37 minutes, putting up 29 points, shooting 40% from the field, with five 3-pointers, before he fouled out of the game, a 114-107 road loss Saturday.
After the game, Kemba Walker spoke to the media about his relationship with Thibodeau since the benching and his understanding of the situation. The New York Post reported the dialog went like this,
Reporter: “Has Thibodeau explained anything about why this has happened?”
Walker: “No sir,”
Reporter: “Have you talked to him at all during the nine straight DNP-CDs?”
Walker: “No sir.”
Reporter: “Were you confused by that?”
Walker: “Was I confused? No. I’m not starting, I ain’t playing. So 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.”
That Walker, who signed a two-year $17 million contract in August, has not been talking to his coach is shocking, and that relationship might not be mendable. Walker is an example of something else going on in the NBA, where the analytics have taken over.
Carmelo Anthony and Isaiah Thomas have been big names who missed time because “they were defensive liabilities.” These two are both on the LA Lakers and still have juice in their legs.
Jamal Crawford, who is still not retired, tweeted about this, saying:
“Stop letting these coaches/ teams create the narrative a player is done, because THEY don’t like them…”
“And some of y’all said “ defensive net rating” and all this other mumbo jumbo trying to justify Kemba not playing. 🧐”
Kemba Walker can still play a role on an NBA team
Even though it seems like the Knicks are pretty much done with the former All-NBA point guard, Walker can still be a solid piece on an NBA team. Maybe not as a starter who is getting 30 impactful minutes, but as a spark plug off the bench.
After not playing a single minute in 19 days, Walker still started dropped 29 points. The Knicks might want to play him more with how their offense has looked this season.
The Knicks (13-17) are averaging 105.9 ppg -- seventh best in the NBA. The Knicks are 10-9 when Walker plays, which calls into question Thibodeau’s decision to bench him. New York has won only three games without Walker.
However, there still has not been a trade market for Walker. But after his 29-point performance, maybe after the dust settles after this recent COVID-19 explosion in the NBA, some teams will start to call the Knicks about Walker.
Despite being considered a defensive liability, Walker should be on the court because of what he can offer on offense. Walker needs to find a coach who will scheme around him and give him a shot in the proper role.