What started with high hopes is ending with Kemba Walker being paid not to play the remainder of this season, setting up an offseason trade.
The Knicks and Walker have agreed the point guard will sit out the final 23 games of the season, work on getting his knees healthy, and both the Knicks and Walkers’ agent will work to set up a trade this summer. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story.
Walker, 31, signed a two-year deal with the Knicks after an August buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the partnership became fraught with starts and stops that ultimately led to the organization collaborating with his agent Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports on a plan for Walker across the Knicks’ final 23 regular-season games.
Walker will be on an expiring contract this summer, and that will offer an opportunity for the Knicks and Schwartz to work on trade scenarios in the offseason.
The Knicks released this statement from team president Leon Rose:
“We fully support Kemba’s decision to shut it down for the remainder of the season and to use this time to prepare for next season. His long-term success on the court remains our priority.”
With Walker out, coach Tom Thibodeau could return Alec Burks to the starting lineup (that’s what happened last time Walker was out for an extended time). His other options are to start Immanuel Quickley or to move Derrick Rose from sixth man to starter with his return from injury.
Bringing in Walker was one of several swings and misses by Rose and the Knicks’ brain trust this season, moves that have seen New York fall from the four seed a season ago to the 12 seed and out of even the play-in heading into the final couple months of the season.
Last summer, Walker seemed a smart signing. While he was wildly overpaid for what he could still produce on aging knees in Boston, the Knicks signed Walker to a two-year, $17.9 million contract that seemed more in line with his current production.
Except, with his knees worsening and keeping him out of the lineup for stretches, Walker’s production fell off even more. Hes’ averaged 11.7 points a game on 40.3% shooting overall this season, he’s missed more than 20 games, and he’s hurt the team’s defense. Thibodeau has had him out of the lineup for stretches (and only put him back in at one point because COVID absences forced him to).
The Knicks have a lot of work to do to remake their roster this coming offseason, and possibly the coaching staff as Thibodeau is reported to be on the hot seat.
Now part of that summer will be finding a new home for Walker.