It remains to be seen what Kemba Walker can do to help elevate the Knicks. The recently acquired guard was an All-Star four straight seasons between 2017-20, but was hampered by an arthritic left knee last year for the Celtics.
Still, it kind of feels like Walker already got his happy ending.
The UConn product is a Bronx native, after all. And for years now he had dropped signs that the Knicks were among his preferred landing spots. As it turns out, Walker was close to joining the Knicks in 2019 free agency – if New York could have lured Kevin Durant along with him, according to a report Sunday by Marc Berman of the New York Post.
Still, if things had fallen in their favor, the Knicks envisioned a roster led by Durant and Walker, according to Berman.
Knicks Targeted Kevin Durant in 2019 Free Agency
Berman wrote that Walker had eyes on joining the Knicks in 2019 free agency if they could also land Durant. At the time, the Knicks had cap space to sign two players to max contracts.
Instead, Durant was enticed to join the Nets thanks in large part to Irving, which, in turn, prompted Walker to sign with a contender in the Boston Celtics.
Berman elaborates more on the chain of events that ultimately kept Madison Square Garden from seeing Walker and Durant suit up as teammates:
The Post has learned the Knicks, amid their chase for Durant, were told emphatically Irving was not changing his mind about Brooklyn.
As a fallback, former Knicks president Steve Mills and current GM Scott Perry turned their sights on trying to get Walker to agree to play with KD. In fact, Durant’s camp asked Knicks management what other star it could get to pair with Durant.
When Durant and Irving ultimately signed with the Nets, the Knicks and Walker mutually agreed it was not a good idea to bring him to New York without another current All-Star.
The Knicks were coming off six straight losing seasons at the time. It is unclear whether Walker and Durant had direct conversations about the Knicks before free agency.
Walker Finally Gets to Play for the Knicks
In August of 2020, Walker, making an appearance on The Ringer’s “R2C2” podcast, revealed that he almost picked the Knicks over the Celtics in 2019 free agency.
“To be honest, yes. Yes. Very serious, very,” Walker said when he was asked if he seriously considered playing for the Knicks then. “At one point – yes, very serious.”
In the end, it all worked out. Walker is now joining a Julius Randle-led Knicks team that is fresh off the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and its first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season.
Berman also reported that Walker’s family was concerned about him playing for the Knicks earlier in his career because of “the pressure on the hometown hero as savior,” as Berman wrote.
Walker averaged 19.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds last season. He inked with the Knicks on a two-year, $18 million deal.
“My guys, my home team, the Knicks, they believed in me,” Walker said, per Berman. “And I’m here now. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant at this point.”