Wild scenes. I got my phone lying on the table to my right, and the notification just popped up minutes before typing this: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the New York Knicks and point guard Kemba Walker have agreed to keep the free-agent acquisition sidelined for the remainder of the season.
ESPN Sources: The New York Knicks and guard Kemba Walker have agreed that the four-time All-Star will be sidelined for the remainder of the team’s season. Story: https://t.co/P98Qf8uJB6— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 23, 2022
Of course, Woj beat Knicks’ president Leon Rose and the whole organization at it, because leaks. But at least Rose went to confirm the report in a brief statement just a few minutes after the Woj Bomb.
Statement from New York Knicks President Leon Rose on Kemba Walker pic.twitter.com/n0dpbJd2zl— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) February 23, 2022
With this news, the lineup—not the roster, mind you, as Kemba will still stay in tow—has now one extra slot open as this move should free Kemba Walker’s 22 MPG logged since he came back to the starting lineup back on Jan. 18 and missing only two games since then. It’s going to be hard to forget Kemba’s back-to-back season-high performances around Christmas when he dumped 44 pops on Washington and followed that game up with a 10-10-12 triple-double on a 14-point victory against Atlanta on Dec. 25. Sadly, the writing seemed to be on the wall from the get-go and this break was always expected to happen when way (buyout) or the other (shutdown).
Kemba’s played 37 games in his first season for the Knicks, one which was interrupted by an abrupt benching by head coach Tom Thibodeau in late-November/early-December. No buyout seems to be on the front office plans by now, so we’ll get back to Kemba come summertime when his deal, then an expiring one, becomes a little bit more palatable in case of an eventual draft-day trade or any other move of the like as the 2022-23 off/regular-season progress.
With Kemba no longer an option for Thibs, there is now one fewer excuse not to shuffle the rotation with Derrick Rose and RJ Barrett inching closer to their respective returns. Not that the 11-3-3 line posted by New York’s native Kemba (down from career 19-4-5 averages) should be too hard to replace by the likes of Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, and Miles McBride getting bulkier minutes as more important parts of the rotation going forward. Such a shame the Knicks can’t call up Rokas Jokubaitis to suit up starting next Friday.