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Tom Thibodeau says Kemba Walker is out of the rotation “as of right now”

Tom Thibodeau announced a change to New York’s starting lineup and the entire rotation moving forward

Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Ahead of Tuesday night’s showdown with the Brooklyn Nets, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau announced an upcoming change to the starting lineup and the rotation as a whole.

Kemba Walker would no longer be starting, replaced at the starting point guard spot by Alec Burks. In fact, Thibs said that Walker wouldn’t even be a part of the rotation “as of right now,” while he works on tightening the screws on one of the deepest teams in the NBA.

It was hard not to see the writing on the wall with Kemba’s role on this team and where those responsibilities were heading. He’s dead last among Knicks in plus/minus by nearly double the next closest teammate. He’s bottom 15 in that category among players around the league to have logged at least 400 minutes.

With the Knicks amid a brutal stretch of their schedule that includes upcoming matchups with Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee, and Golden State, Thibs could only hold out for so long before making the necessary change in an effort to jumpstart his team.

“I have great respect for who Kemba is as a person number one and all that he’s accomplished in this league,” Thibs said in a press conference. “But I have to do what I think is best for the team.”

Burks doesn’t look the part of starting point guard, but he made a spot start at the position in New York’s most recent victory over Atlanta and dropped a season-high 23 points in a 99-90 victory. It’s very possible that he provides the scoring punch the Knicks thought they could get from Walker. Burks is also shooting 45.1 percent on 4.6 3-point attempts per game, ensuring that the spacing the starters need won’t be compromised.

“I wanna tighten up the rotation,” Thibs said. “I like the way the team functioned so it will be similar to what we did in the Atlanta game.”

By not going with either Immanuel Quickley or Derrick Rose in the starting lineup, it looks like Thibs plans to keep the core of his second unit in sync. As much as I want to see IQ run the show with the starters, it’s hard to argue the decision when those two plus Obi Toppin contribute to some of New York’s most successful lineups, and they do so coming off the bench. Put one of those guards in the starting lineup and the rotation has to be tweaked even more to ensure those three still share the bulk of their minutes with each other.

An interesting question that arises in the aftermath of this news is the status of Quentin Grimes. The rookie has seen 10+ minutes in each of New York’s last two games with Rose missing the last two games and Kemba sitting out on the second night of a back-to-back against the Hawks. With Walker’s 24.5 nightly minutes up for grabs, does Thibs try and see what the 21-year-old can give him or spread those minutes among players he trusts?

We’ll get our first taste of what the entirety of Thibs’ new rotation looks like Tuesday in Brooklyn at 7:30 pm EST.