But perhaps most importantly, they get a healthy veteran – or at least that’s what the 31-year-old insisted last week during his introductory press conference with his new team.
“My knee feels great,” he continued. “Honestly, I haven’t been playing as much since the regular season. I feel really good. I haven’t had this much time off in a little while, in a few years, to be honest. It feels good to have this rest and time to get my knee right.
“I intend to come in feeling super good and continue to feel super good.’’
Still, no matter what Walker says, it’s not like his knee injury is gone completely.
For further insight into Walker’s ailment, Berman spoke with a leading sports orthopedic surgeon, who pointed to the stem-cell injections Walker received in his left knee before last season as “a strong indicator he is suffering from a type of arthritis that could greatly impact the 2021-22 season.”
“He’ll always have the issue the rest of his career,’’ Dr. Wellington Hsu, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University, told Berman. “He’s not a spring chicken. He’ll have some type of lingering issue.”
Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season, but saw those numbers dip to 12.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the playoffs. Still, Walker insisted his knee injury didn’t impact him greatly.
“Not much,’’ Walker said, per Berman. “Last season, not much, to be honest. Not my knee. I was feeling pretty good. I just had a little hiccup in the playoffs, which sucked. Obviously, nobody likes to be injured, especially in that moment. But I felt pretty good all year.’’
Walker Right at Home in New York
Walker, a UConn product and the ninth overall pick in 2011, was traded from the Celtics to Oklahoma City in mid-June. Then, in early August, the Thunder agreed to a buyout of Walker’s contract. As part of the agreement, the 6-foot guard reportedly gave up $20 million over two years, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac.
It took that sequence of events for Walker to finally wind up back home.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,’’ Walker said, per Berman. “It’s a great feeling. Just growing up here, walking around the city and seeing those guys’ faces on the billboards who played for the Knicks, and I’m going to play in New York. Now to seeing myself up there, with Evan (Fournier), who I’ve known for a minute now, man, it’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m grateful.”
Walker Sets a High Bar
Walker was introduced in New York alongside another new Knicks acquisition, Evan Fournier.
Together, the duo are poised to give the Knicks a good shot at a second straight playoff berth.
Just ask Walker.
“We’re going to be really good,’’ the newest Knicks guard said, according to Berman. “My ability to get in the lane. Hopefully I can draw multiple defenders and get rid of the basketball. Trusting my teammates. I know this guy right here [Fournier] is going to light it up. For sure he’s going to shoot the crap out of the ball.
“We got a bunch of young guys. We just drafted some really, really good players. I was really impressed watching summer league and some of the other guys who have been here. Me and Evan plan on coming here, bringing some leadership and adding on to what they have.’’