More Lineup Drama Could Be on the Way for the Knicks

Kemba Walker Tom Thibodeau Knicks

Getty New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker on the floor during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Four games have been played since Tom Thibodeau made the decision to drop Kemba Walker from the New York Knicks‘ rotation. However, the shock benching has yet to yield better results on the hardwood.

With their 14-point loss to the shorthanded Denver Nuggets on Saturday, the Knicks have now lost three straight games. Over that span, they have conceded a whopping 122.4 points per 100 possessions while allowing opponents to knock down 50% of their shot attempts; numbers unbecoming of a Thibodeau-led team.

Meanwhile, Walker’s replacement, Alec Burks, has come back to earth in recent contests. After scoring 20-plus points in each of his first two starts, Burks is averaging 13.5 points on 31.3% shooting over his last two games.

So, it should come as no surprise that more lineup tinkering could be on the way.

A Lineup in Flux & What That Means for Kemba

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As relayed by the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, Thibodeau warned that “more changes could be coming” to his rotation should the team continue to struggle. Despite the fact that the club’s recent losses have come against quality competition, he’s probably not wrong to be considering his options, either.

The Knicks coach might be wise to consider employing more three-guard/small-ball units once his starters begin to rest. For the year, the five-man lineup of Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin and Taj Gibson has outscored the opposition by 28 points/100 poss. over 89 total minutes.

Meanwhile, the same crew with Nerlens Noel manning the pivot instead of Gibson boasts a net rating of 12.1.

One thing that we won’t be seeing is Walker rejoining the rotation in a complementary role. For his part, Thibodeau has maintained that the four-time All-Star won’t be seen on the court at all unless it’s as a starter.

“As I mentioned before when I made that decision, I view Kemba as a starter,” Thibodeau said.

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Thibodeau on What Goes Into Making the Change

Where actually pulling the trigger on lineup changes is concerned, Thibodeau said that it’s as much about the intersection of intensity and execution as it is the end result.

“If the intensity’s right and the execution’s not right and it’s not working, then you change [the rotation],” Thibodeau said, via the Daily News. “So those are the two things, when you look at decision-making. And then you gather more information. Sometimes, if a decision’s not right, then you make another decision. You gather the information, study it and you look at it objectively.”

He added, “If we’re not performing well, look, there may be more changes coming. I like our group, I like the way they approach it. We all put our stuff together. We’ve got to focus together and we’ve got to work our way out of it together. That’s the way it is.”


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