“I'm going to cheer them on until I can't anymore” - Kemba Walker wants to be an ideal teammate despite on-court struggles with New York Knicks

Kemba Walker wants to be an ideal teammate despite on-court struggles with New York Knicks
Kemba Walker wants to be an ideal teammate despite on-court struggles with New York Knicks
Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks reacts during a game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Nov. 30, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks reacts during a game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Nov. 30, 2021, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

Kemba Walker was completely left out of the New York Knicks' starting lineup and rotation in a surprising move last week.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau only said the move was made in order to make some changes within the team. The Knicks have lost three straight games, including a 113-99 home loss to the Denver Nuggets in their latest outing Saturday.

Walker has not played in the past four games, including three since Thibodeau announced the decision Nov. 29 to sideline the 31-year old point guard. Journeyman guard Alec Burks has made his first four starts of the season in that stretch.

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The move was announced days after Burks started and led the Knicks to a 99-90 victory at the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 27. Burks posted a season-high 23 points, with seven rebounds and three assists, as he made 41.2% and 57.1% of his shots from the field and beyond the arc respectively. Walker was inactive for the game.

Thibodeau said he made the decision to do what is best for the team. However, with the Knicks yet to win a game since the announcement, having lost to the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets, will Thibodeau reconsider the move?

Kemba Walker finally reacted to the decision.

"It was tough, obviously, because as a competitor, I love to play basketball. I love to be on the court. This is the first time this has happened to me in my career, pretty much on any level. But at the end of the day, I have respect for coach Thibs and the decision he made. It might not have been an easy one, but it was a choice he made. I have no choice but to live with it."

Walker, who was born in the Bronx, said he'd continue to cheer for his hometown team and try to be a good role model for the younger players.

"I could be pissed, but at the end of the day, there are some young guys here who look up to me. Maybe I can be a role model. I love being around my teammates and I'm going to cheer them on until I can't anymore."

How Kemba Walker has fared this season

Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks dribbles during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2021, in New York City.
Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks dribbles during the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2021, in New York City.

Walker started his NBA career in 2011, after being drafted ninth overall by what was then the Charlotte Bobcats. He had a strong rookie season, averaging 12.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

Now in his 11th season, Walker spent the first eight with the Bobcats/Hornets. An All-Star four times, Walker spent the past two seasons with the Boston Celtics before joining the Knicks as a key offseason acquisition. The addition of Walker was thought to give New York the perimeter shooting the Knicks lacked last season.

Walker's best season was in 2018-19, his final season with the Hornets. He averaged 25.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He was selected as an All-Star and made the All-NBA Third Team.

During the offseason, Walker signed a two-year contract worth $17.9 million with New York as a free agent. His debut game for the Knicks was the opening night with his former team, the Celtics. In that game, the Knicks won a 138-134, two-overtime, nationally televised thriller, and Walker had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal.

His top scoring game came at the Hornets in New York's 13th game, a 104-96 loss on Nov. 12. He led the team with 26 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Until that game at the Hawks, Walker started and played in 18 of the Knicks' first 19 games. The Knicks went 10-8 in those games.

His season averages are 11.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.

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Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein
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