Well, Kemba Walker continues to make people look like fools.
Walker was given the opportunity to get some minutes due to a COVID outbreak among the team. Just like rookies Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, Walker took his chance and ran away with it.
In four starts since being forced into the rotation, Walker has averaged 26 points a night with seven assists and eight rebounds. On Saturday, he became the first Knick to record a triple double on Christmas Day and the seventh to do it in NBA history. His efforts were enough to win him Eastern Conference Player of the Week. In these last four games, the Knicks are 2-2. But, these numbers don’t come close to sniffing the lackluster 12 points a night with three rebounds and three assists from his first 18 starts to the season.
It feels good for Knicks fans to see the fan-favorite Bronx-born Walker thrive in the city he grew up in. It’s what everyone envisioned when the season tipped off.
But the hot run from Walker comes at a very interesting time. Remember, Walker is getting this run while guards Barrett, Quickley, Grimes and McBride all had to enter the Health and Safety Protocols and Derrick Rose underwent surgery on his ankle and is out for about two months. But, slowly, we see Barrett, Quickley and Grimes get cleared from the Health and Safety Protocols. McBride will be coming back soon too. So Thibodeau is going to have to make some tough decisions and cut the minutes down of some and maybe even eliminate some from the rotation.
Surely, Thibodeau isn’t going to make the same mistake twice and remove Walker from the rotation. He has provided enough offense in the past four games that fans can look the other way when he gets beat on defense, unlike his French teammate in Fournier, who should be the casualty from the rotation. However, Fournier’s $78 million contract needs to be in the rotation just to justify the awful decision made by Leon Rose.
Barrett will most likely go back to being the starting three with Burks going back to the bench as the experiment of being the point guard didn’t exactly flourish.
So we’re back with the almost same starting five that took the court on opening night: Walker, Fournier, Barrett, Randle and Robinson or Noel.
With Rose down for about two months, where do the Knicks go for the two guards off the bench? Quickley will surely get his spot back. His ability to make space, find his open man or launch a three is too valuable to this team, especially off the bench.
That leaves Grimes and McBride. Both rookies have done very well in earning more minutes, but Thibodeau’s style includes a small rotation so there is high doubt that both of them will get minutes. We’ve seen a reluctance from Thibodeau to go small in the last two years. Despite fans’ desire to witness a lineup with Toppin and Randle, we’ve seen it only a few times, so if Thibodeau wants to run small with the second group, McBride might be the answer. But this is the only way he will crack the rotation when he returns.
Thibodeau might run with Grimes when his conditioning returns to par. The Texas native has been very impressive in his limited action. He is hyperactive on defense, which is endearing to fans and Thibodeau. He is not afraid to shoot and has one of the most beautiful jumpers you’ll ever see. He is 12-for-25 in the last two games, a 48% clip, from downtown. His potential of being a 3-and-D wing should have the front office and fanbase excited for the next few years, especially considering the price right now as a late first round pick.
The Knicks are starting to get their men back. That means Thibodeau is going to have to make some tough decisions soon in regards to the young studs that Knicks fans are falling in love with. But there is one certainty: Thibodeau can’t put Walker back on the bench and have him pile up more DNP-Coach’s Decision.