Kemba Walker after scoring 29 in return to Knicks’ lineup: ‘I hate it. I want to play … I know I should be playing’

Kemba Walker in New York Knicks v Boston Celtics
Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images
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Kemba Walker went from starting for the Knicks to 10 straight DNP-CDs (nine if you believe the first absence of that stretch were truly for rest, as the team announced).

With New York shorthanded, he returned to the starting lineup Saturday – and scored 29 points in a loss to the Celtics.

Walker, Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports:

“I hate it. I want to play. … 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.”

“I know I should be playing, so no question. It feels great,” Walker said when asked if it felt good to make a statement with his play. “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.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Has Thibodeau explained anything about why this has happened?

“No sir,” Walker said.

Have you talked to him at all during the nine straight DNP-CDs?

“No sir.”

Were you confused by that?

“Was I confused?” Walker said. “No. I’m not starting, I ain’t playing,” Walker said. “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.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for not always seeing the forest for the trees. Obsessing over lineup construction and overlooking communication would be an example of that.

Walker is a forgiving person who puts the team first. But it’s not good to take advantage of that. Walker’s patience is clearly being tested.

The 31-year-old has declined considerably from his star peak. Undersized with less mobility than before, he has defensive shortcomings that probably grind Thibodeau.

But it definitely appears Walker can still help a team in the right role. Benching him didn’t solve New York’s problems. Against Boston, the Knicks outscored the Celtics by five in Walker’s 37 minutes (and got outscored by 12 in the other 11).

Yet, it’s unclear whether Walker will stick in the Knicks’ rotation once they get healthy.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”