18 games into his homecoming tour, Kemba Walker has been removed as the New York Knicks starting point guard. Head coach Tom Thibodeau informed reporters on Monday, November 29th, that the four-time All-Star is out of the Knicks’ regular rotation “as of right now.”
Veteran journeyman Alec Burks will take over the starting point guard duties for the foreseeable future in New York, according to Thibodeau (via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski). Per The Athletic’s Fred Katz, the Knicks coach noted he has great respect for Walker and everything he has accomplished but acknowledged that “it would be tough to play three small guards together.”
A. Sherrod Blakley of Bleacher Report has reported that “Multiple league sources believe the Knicks will look to trade Walker, whose value on the trade market, much like his production, is at an all-time low — A source close to the Knicks indicated New York may also have a potential trade partner in the Houston Rockets, who are eager to move John Wall.”
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Walker’s Rocky Road to the Knicks Bench
The lineup decision comes on the heels of Burks pouring in a team-high 23 points in his first start of the season during a nine-point victory over the Atlanta Hawks on November 27th. Burks has steadily seen his role increase over recent weeks, as he’s logged an average of 27.2 minutes per game in New York’s last nine outings, including 39 minutes against Atlanta. The 30-year-old Colorado product has averaged 10.5 points and 1.8 assists per game this season. Since arriving in New York a season ago, he’s knocked down 42.4% of his attempts from beyond the arc.
As for Walker, the 31-year-old Bronx native has been outright horrendous this season. In fact, he’s shooting a career-best 41.3% from 3-point range. However, he’s failed to re-establish himself as an All-Star caliber player.
Much like during the latter end of his Boston days, Walker readily continues to sit out of back-to-back outings in an attempt to manage his health and knee issues. When on the court, he’s averaging 11.7 points and 3.1 assists per game — both of which mark career lows for the 11-year veteran, as does his 24.5 minutes per game.
Celtics Clear-Cut Winners of the Walker Trade?
The Knicks inked Walker to a two-year, $18 million deal this offseason after he was bought out by the Thunder. Walker originally make his way to Oklahoma City via a trade that was struck with the Celtics less than two months earlier. Boston unloaded Walker, their then-starting point guard, as well as a 2021 first-round draft pick (16th selection) and a 2025 second-round draft pick, in exchange for big men Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round selection.
Brown was subsequently dealt to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Josh Richardson, who most recently dropped 18 points in the C’s victory over the Toronto Raptors on November 28th. Horford, 35, has turned back the clock in his return to Beantown, averaging 12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and a career-best 1.6 blocks per game. Furthermore, the Celtics were able to replace Walker with free agent signee Dennis Schroder, who is currently playing on a bargain $5.9 million deal and averaging the second-most assists (4.9) and third-most points (17.1) among all Celtics players.
While Brad Stevens’ ability to unload Walker’s $73 million remaining salary was widely applauded from a financial aspect, there are still people to this day who have their reservations from a pure basketball standpoint.
“They lost a veteran point guard in Kemba Walker, I think that was a huge loss,” Celtics legend Paul Pierce told Chris Mannix and Howard Beck on Sports Illustrated’s “The Crossover NBA Show” during a November 19th segment. “I think if he had another year to get seasoned with them, they would have been better.”