It’s a new day as the New York Knicks begin formal practices on Tuesday ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Gone are the days of dysfunction on the bench, like when Joakim Noah shoved Jeff Hornacek because he wasn’t getting enough playing time.
Gone are the days of the ceaseless debates about which underperforming point guard will get the lion’s share of the minutes.
The Knicks have a plan in place with things legitimately looking up heading into a season for the first time in what feels like a decade after their improbable run to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and the playoffs.
They improved their ranks further by addressing the long-standing glaring issue that was the starting point guard role when they signed four-time All-Star Kemba Walker to a two-year deal.
He’ll headline a rotation that also features Derrick Rose, who once again worked his way back into the hearts of Knicks fans with a stupendous showing after he was acquired from the Detroit Pistons in February.
But while head coach Tom Thibodeau tried to play coy about the depth chart, saying the starting lineup wasn’t “etched in stone,” Rose quickly put an end to any needless speculation.
“He’s starting,” Rose said of Walker. “Whatever it takes to just change the game. I’m not worried about minutes or playing time. I know [Thibodeau] is going to handle that. But I feel like we have a deep team.”
Walker’s arrival certainly helps that as Rose was the Knicks’ starting point guard down the stretch and into the playoffs as they were bounced in five games by the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged nearly 15 points along with 4.2 assists in 26.2 minutes per game. For Rose, that’s just the kind of production that should be coming off the bench.
“I’m on Year 14. I’m appreciative to be here,” Rose, who turns 33 next week, said. “[Walker] is a starter. Coming in, he has a lot to prove being from New York. You have to give him the stage, being that he’s from here. You have to give him the opportunity. It’s not [about] fighting for a spot. My job is to fill in. But I just have to stay ready.’’
Walker, a Bronx native roughly two years Rose’s junior, is poised to bring a kind of production that hasn’t been seen at the point guard position by the Knicks since the early days of Stephon Marbury’s tenure 17 years ago.
But even he stressed the importance of what Rose provides not only to the position but for the franchise.
“He’s one of the biggest reasons I came here,” Walker said of Rose. “I wanted to be around him… I’ve always been a huge D-Rose fan. Regardless, starting, not starting, whatever, it doesn’t even matter. I just want to win. And to have a guy like him, former MVP, a guy who’s been through it all, to be on the same team as him is really special to me.
“I definitely want to build a special rapport with him, try to help him lead. I’ve seen this team last year and the way he played and pushed himself. Hopefully, I can take a little bit of pressure off of him.’’