Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP
It was cute when the Knicks signed Bronx native Kemba Walker this offseason mainly because he was coming home. It couldn’t be because of his diminished basketball skills. This seemed like a reach at the time because of his knees. He suffered knee injuries over the years, which was why the Boston Celtics were more than happy to let him go.
The Knicks knew he would not be the Walker of old from his UConn days and Charlotte Hornets. They hope he can be serviceable at best.
From watching him after 11 games, we may be generous to say Walker can be serviceable. He appears like a player who may have nothing left. He can’t push the ball up the court, and he sure can’t shoot. It’s sad to watch.
Walker scored two points on 1-of-7 shooting in 18 minutes during Wednesday night’s Knicks’ 112-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. He went 0-for-3 on the 3-point line. He finished with a -22 rating, which summed up the horrible night he had. He joined Evan Fournier (two points), RJ Barrett (nine points), Julius Randle (16 points) and Mitchell Robinson (three points) on the bench in the fourth quarter last night after they all stunk.
This has been too common, and it should make the Knicks and their fans wonder if this is what Walker is going to do each game. If that is the case, then the Knicks are not going to do much in the playoffs. Shoot, they may not even be a playoff team.
Please don’t say it’s an overreaction on a loss or one game. Walker scored eight points on 3-of-9 shooting in the Knicks’ 103-96 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night, and he only made 1-of-6 in the 3-point line. He scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting in the Knicks’ 113-98 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night, and he went 1-of-5 in the 3-point line. He scored four points on 2-of-11 shooting in 28 minutes in the Knicks’ 111-98 loss to the Indiana Pacers last week, and he went 0-for-5 in the 3-point line.
Know what we say about performances like this? A trend.
Walker is part of the Knicks starting lineup that has been outscored 14.4 points per 100 possessions so far this season and has a defensive rating of 119.3. So not only he does nothing offensively, but he is also brutal defensively.
To Walker’s credit, he has been assertive, but the shots are not falling in right now. He certainly can’t go to the lane and score with his knees. So if he can’t shoot, he is useless, which is what he is right now.
The Knicks have no choice but to be patient with him and hope for the best. They need to help him find a way to settle down and get back on track. But they can only do so much. It comes down to him stepping up.
Whether he is hurt or not, it’s irrelevant. If he is hurting all of sudden, then it’s even worse since the Knicks should have known better. If he is not hurting and he continues to offer nothing, then it is a problem.
Thibodeau can only be patient to a point. It could just be Walker is decent from the bench, but that may even be wishful thinking. Even if he comes from the bench, it wouldn’t be good because Rose does so well off the bench that he is more useful in the fourth quarter, which tends to be decided, so starting Rose would not be a good idea. The struggling Walker may not do much since he is not used to coming off the bench, and I am not sure what value he can bring with his knees continuing to be a detriment.
It was telling Thibodeau did not bother to even put him back out there in the fourth quarter even after he was benched. If the Knicks head coach felt he had something left, he would have played.
There were questions about how Walker would fare in an 82-game season with his knees going through various pains. So far, he is raising more questions more than ever with performances like the last four games.
If his shots continue to not fall, what is the point of playing him?