If there was any question whether or not Kemba Walker was planted firmly at the bottom of the New York Knicks’ depth chart, it was answered on Tuesday night.
With RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes sidelined in the NBA’s COVID health and safety protocols, head coach Tom Thibodeau went with another rookie in Miles McBride, who came off the bench for Derrick Rose — now thrust into a starting role — in a 105-96 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden that will forever be remembered for Stephen Curry breaking the NBA’s all-time three-pointer record.
McBride, who had played just 12:07 for the Knicks in eight previous appearances, saw a career-high 20:19 of floor time against the Warriors while scoring eight points on 3-of-8 shooting from the field and four rebounds. That included going 2-for-4 from three-point range in the loss.
It wasn’t necessarily Grimes’ breakout game on Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks when he poured in 27 points on 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc, but it was a serviceable outing for a player who has been shuttled between the Knicks and their G-League affiliate in Westchester.
“We see it in practice. He’s had the opportunity in the G-League. He played really well there as well,” Thibodeau said of McBride. “He played really well in the Summer League. It’s good for him to have an opportunity like that — all the things that he’s working on every day and then to get into a game situation — to see it unfold there was positive. Our young guys are really playing hard and they’re coming along.”
Thibodeau seems set on playing the youngsters rather than turning to Walker, who has now sat for eight consecutive games. His absence certainly isn’t helping the Knicks either, who are 1-7 during that stretch.
Whether there is a trade in place for Walker and the Knicks don’t want to run the risk of him damaging his arthritic knee — or if Thibodeau really wants no part in the four-time All-Star trying to break this losing skid — this certainly seems to be what the Knicks are going to look like moving forward.
And Thibodeau still has faith, despite the recent nosedive.
“We have to work. Sometimes there’s going to be ebbs and flows and sometimes things are going great and sometimes they’re not,” he said. “Usually the way you work your way out of that is with great effort – cut hard, screen hard, defend hard, get to loose balls, get a couple layups – and then all of a sudden you get going. Things can
change very quickly, and we have to make them change.”