Fans of the New York Knicks seem to be very excited about the acquisition of point guard Kemba Walker, but there is one key thing that everyone should be wary of.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has become known over the years for perhaps playing his veterans for too long and leaving them in games they shouldn’t be in.
Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the 2012 playoffs where Thibodeau had the Chicago Bulls up 12 against the Philadelphia 76ers with 1:30 to go when star guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL.
Fast forward to 2021, and Thibodeau is now the coach of a team where another one of his star players has an injury history to deal with. Kemba Walker didn’t play on back-to-backs through all of the 2020 NBA season, and his injury got to the point where he was held out of the final two playoff games for the Celtics.
This means Thibodeau might be forced to reconsider his stance on load management if he wants to keep Walker healthy through the season.
Do We Already Have the Answer?
During his introductory press conference, Kemba Walker was asked if he’d be playing in back-to-backs with the Knicks, to which Walker said with a laugh, “You gotta ask Thibs.”
Thibodeau, who was sitting in the front row, jokingly said he’ll be playing, but it might not be as simple as that. The reality is that Walker is closer to the end of his career than he is the beginning, and that comes with a history of injuries.
When healthy, he can still be a very serviceable player, but that’s no longer a given. At 31-years-old, Walker will need to be monitored throughout the season, and that means Thibs may have to continue holding him out of games on the second night of a back-to-back.
Obviously, it’s too early to tell what the plan is, but the team will likely want to ease him back into playing a full schedule instead of throwing him in off the deep end.
Walker is Thankful to Be Back
It’s no secret that Madison Square Garden is one of the best places to play basketball and that applies to both the home and visiting teams.
Walker has had some of his best games at the Garden, with one of his most notable moments coming in 2011 during the Big East Championship game where he hit the game-winner while he was still a member of UConn.
Now, he’ll have the opportunity to create even more memories with half of his games being played in front of the home fans of New York City.
“This feeling has been like no other,” he said. “I’m randomly getting goosebumps. It just feels good to be back home.”
Walker will be joined in the backcourt by another free agency signing in Evan Fournier. The two were both teammates on the Boston Celtics last year, so there is a bit of report between the two, even though Walker did deal with injuries throughout much of their time together.