The Knicks and Kemba Walker have agreed on a plan to bench the veteran point guard for the final 23 games of the 2021-22 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday.
The decision will allow him to prepare and work out in anticipation of the 2022-23 season.
Walker signed a two-year deal with the Knicks over the summer after agreeing to a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It initially provided the promise of a homecoming hero helping to take the Knicks to the next level in terms of postseason contention.
The Bronx native and four-time All-Star was initially deemed a sizable upgrade at a point guard position that the Knicks have been deficient of in terms of star power for decades. Alongside Evan Fournier — also acquired over the summer — New York was poised to take another step forward after their surprise trip to the playoffs last season.
Instead, injury issues and inconsistencies prompted Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau to bench him for 10 games after he averaged just 11.7 points over his first 18 games with the team.
He returned out of necessity in mid-December due to COVID-19 and injury problems throughout the Knicks’ ranks and responded well, averaging 31.3 points per game in his first three outings back in the fold — including a 44-point outing against the Washington Wizards on Dec. 23.
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Knee soreness forced Walker back to the sidelines shortly after, though, sparking another nine-game absence. In the 13 games since his return, he’s averaged just 8.1 points and 3.4 assists in 22.6 minutes per game.
Veteran point guard Derrick Rose is expected to rejoin the Knicks shortly after missing two months due to ankle surgery, which makes the decision to bench Walker easier.
However, this likely is the unceremonious end to the 31-year-old’s short time with the Knicks as the team will likely pursue a trade this offseason. They should have no problem finding a suitor considering Walker will be on an expiring contract next season and is owed just $9.1 million before hitting free agency.