Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier are officially members of the New York Knicks.
Fans and members of the press got to hear the Knicks PA announcer introduce the newest Knicks to the same music that usually plays during the starting lineup introductions. It was a great way to get everyone hyped and thinking about what this team will be like come October.
Both players received the customary new free agent introduction. Fournier’s introduction mentioned his success at this year’s Olympics and focused on his scoring and shooting prowess. Seconds later, Walker’s introduction mentioned his scoring prowess as well but was centered around his individual accolades and roots in New York as well as his historic run in the Big East tournament during his last year at UConn.
The first question of the press conference was the first of many times Walker was asked about coming home and playing for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. And each time he was asked, Walker smiled. He was even speechless at times. The Bronx native spoke about how he had always wanted to come to New York and almost did in 2019 but never really thought it would actually happen. Now, finally a Knick, Walker spoke very highly of head coach Tom Thibodeau and the young core. He made it clear that he, along with Fournier wanted to bring some leadership and add to what the Knicks accomplished last year.
The other common topic was Walker’s health. The four-time All Star missed 29 games last year, mostly because of his knee. People around the league questioned if he was washed up, and there definitely is concern over if he can get back to the player he used to be. Last year, he averaged 19.3ppg on just 42% shooting, which were both his worst marks since the 2014-15 season.
Walker tried to put those doubts to rest, telling reporters his knee feels good right now. When he was asked if he would play back-to-backs (see below), Walker redirected the question to Thibodeau, who let out a rare laugh and answered, “He’s playing”. With the guard depth on the team now, fans will have to wait and see to see if that statement holds true, but Walker doesn’t seem opposed to it, and that’s great news for Knicks fans.
The one thing that stood out Walker was that he kept alluding to how fun and amazing it is going to be to play for the Knicks. Fans have seen many big-time free agents turn down the once-glorified franchise in recent years, so they are always appreciative when a player seems to genuinely want to be a Knick. It’s a different situation but it was reminiscent in a way of Amar’e Stoudemire when he chose to come to the Knicks, or when you could see just how happy RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin were when they were drafted by the Knicks. With Walker, you could see just how happy he is, but also how hungry he is to prove himself.
Fournier, not being a hometown player or a multiple-time All Star, didn’t have as many questions directed towards him, but he was also very happy to be a Knick. After being asked about the prospect of playing at MSG, he revealed that the Garden has always been his favorite arena because of the energy and the atmosphere. Like Walker, Fournier spoke very highly of the Knicks’ coach and the players, alluding to their ability to execute and play as a very disciplined team. He capped off his answer by saying, “It’s exciting because you want to be a part of a group that works and that wants to win,”.
When asked about the fit of the team, Fournier and Walker, who played together in Boston last year, both stressed the importance of making the right play and getting the ball moving. Aside from their overall health, this will ultimately be the biggest factor in how good this Knicks team can be. As fans saw in the Knicks playoff series against the Hawks, this team needs scorers and playmakers and both of these guys are definitely capable of being that. It may take some time for everybody to gel, but the new free agent additions, along with the new draftees and second-year players—all of whom looked good in Summer League—have the Knicks trending in the right direction.
Fournier did stress, though, that he doesn’t want to put a number on the amount of games they can or will win, as that would be putting a limit on their potential. While last year’s overperforming squad will be a hard one to match in terms of the number of wins, there is no doubt that, if healthy, this team definitely upgraded. Fans should be very excited about what this team could accomplish in 2021-22.