Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau shared the surprising news that Kemba Walker is no longer in the rotation.
In 18 games played, the Bronx native has averaged a disappointing 11.7 points per game and just 3.1 assists per game. Although he has handsome shooting numbers, Walker would disappear on offense as the Knicks would struggle to get in a groove. Defensively, Walker has shown no improvement. Already a subpar defender for his career, there have been times when he gets bullied by smaller guards and has looked lost defending pick-and-rolls.
The numbers confirm what the taps says. The Knicks have the best defense in the league when he’s on the bench (99.0 defensive rating) and are dead last when he’s on the floor (116.3 defensive rating). Also, the Knicks are 9th (113.0 offensive rating) in the league with Walker on the sideline. They fall to 27th (105.1 offensive rating) when he’s on the court.
Thibodeau announced that Alec Burks is the new starting point guard. Burks was inserted into the lineup against the Hawks on Saturday, replacing the spot vacated by Walker. He played 39 minutes, scoring 23 points on 7-for-17 shooting (5-for-7 from deep), along with seven rebounds and three assists. He also had three turnovers in the contest.
Burks, who stands at 6’6”, 215 lbs and has more of a swingman body type, had been coming off the bench and playing at small forward.
The announcement of Burks being the new point guard shocked many Knicks fans for a pair of reasons:
- Immanuel Quickley is right there. Over the last 11 games, Quickley has made 44% of the three-pointers he’s taken. Quickley was able to get seven assists in the win against the Hawks, tying his season-high. After a slow start to the campaign, Quickley has turned it around and is playing for more minutes. Surely, Quickley is the next option. Derrick Rose, who has missed the last three games, has stated his satisfaction in the role he is in. Remember, before the season started, Rose dismissed any rumors of a potential point guard controversy. Surely, Thibodeau doesn’t want to remove Rose from his current role and some may say that’s the correct move.
- Already? The leash was very short on Walker. He was given 18 games, while Elfrid Payton, who has played in six of the Suns’ 20 games, played in 63 games last season. Was there someone in the front office that was in Thibodeau’s ear telling him that Payton must start? Or did Thibodeau learn from his mistake and make a change before it started to hurt the team?
The removal of Walker also brings another very intriguing question: Who gets the vacated minutes?
Thibodeau might be leaning towards rookie Quentin Grimes. He has played in eight of the Knicks’ 20 games, but he has played in the last four games, including nearly 15 minutes of action on Saturday against the Hawks. He went 1-for-3, with his lone made shot being a three-pointer. He played a career-high 17 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, in which he went 1-for-6 with just one three-pointer made. He also grabbed four rebounds and did well when he picked up two-time All-Star Devin Booker.
A long shot, but don’t be shocked if Kevin Knox gets a few more minutes. He would be the next small forward for the Knicks. Don’t count it out.
Walker is ineligible to be traded until December 15, which gives the Knicks roughly two weeks to work out a trade. Walker is making $9 million on this one-year contract.
Also, the mystery of how this happened behind closed doors seems intriguing. Did Thibodeau initiate the conversation with Walker? If he did, did Walker share the same feelings and thoughts, or did the news shock him? Or did Walker go to Thibodeau’s office and said “this isn’t working out for me. I need to play in the fourth quarter?”
Kemba Walker returning home had all the potential of a feel-good Hollywood script, but it concludes a Shakespearean Tragedy, and now Knicks fans can add Walker to the list of mediocre point guards the Knicks have had in the last 20 years.
… or can Walker work his way back to getting minutes?
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