Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports
The New York media heralded the Knicks signing Kemba Walker this week.
It would have made sense five years ago. Now, not so much.
Sorry, but Walker does not excite Knicks fans. He does not make them any better. Honestly, I am more excited about the Evan Fournier signing than Walker, and that’s not saying much since that signing does nothing for me.
Watching Walker the last two years, it seems like his best days are behind him. He does not generate much offense anymore. He is not the player he was with the Hornets. Certainly not when he was at UConn.
He played 43 games this past season and 56 the year before. With his knees being a problem, it’s hard to count on him being healthy, let alone being productive on offense and defense. He may be decent at best, which is his high ceiling.
It does not solve the Knicks’ issues at point guard. It’s hard to count on him being healthy. He certainly logged on many miles in his NBA career.
The Knicks must find a way to acquire Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard this offseason for them to have a chance to win a playoff series and be an NBA title contender next year. An impact player who will be healthy and score points in the fourth quarter. A go-to guy that embraces the moment. Sorry, but that’s not Walker anymore.
Looking at the Knicks roster as presently constituted, it’s not a championship roster. In fact, it may not be a playoff roster. They are certainly not better than the Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and recently NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. They may not be better than the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. They are likely in the periphery of the playoff race next season.
Tom Thibodeau could coach the dickens out of this team and get them in the playoffs this season, but that’s not a guarantee it could happen. Teams will figure the Knicks out. For one thing, they will take them seriously from now on. Second, if a team has a superstar, chances are he will lead his team to a victory since the Knicks don’t have that guy to match him. It showed in the playoffs when the Knicks had no answers for Trae Young did for the Hawks. Not only they couldn’t stop him, but they didn’t have a guy that could match him point by point.
Right there, the Knicks needed to upgrade the roster. They needed to find a star. Thibodeau, Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose and Knicks executive vice president William Wesley stressed the need to find that player when they were hired last year. They knew for the Knicks to be great, they needed to get that impact player.
Sorry, but Walker does fit that criterion anymore.
There’s still hope. The Knicks can make a bold move, and you figure they will try. Lillard can still be traded if he wants to.
With the Trail Blazers not getting free agents to sign with them this week, this could hasten his departure. He knows he has no shot to win a title with them, and the Blazers likely know they got no shot with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors being so much better than them. So the Knicks have a shot to get him.
They drafted three guards in Quentin Grimes, Rokas Jokubaitis and Miles McBride (the Knicks acquired picks No. 34 and 36 by trading their No. 32 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and used those picks to draft Jokubaitis and McBride), so maybe they can be trade bait for the Blazers to get their guy.
Sure this could be wishful thinking, but anything can happen if Lillard calls the shots. The last thing the Blazers need is a James Harden-like distraction with a disgruntled player of theirs.
The Knicks have to find a way to make a move. Trades come when no one knows, which is why Rose has been reclusive to the media. He and his staff have done a great job making everything off-limits.
The Knicks can’t say they tried here. They must find a way. Winning 41 or more games won’t be enough to satisfy a starved fanbase seeking a championship. Making the playoffs is nice, but winning rounds is better. Right now, this team may or may not make the playoffs, but they are not in a position to win a playoff round.
Walker’s signing sounds like a feel-good story because he is from the Bronx playing for his hometown team and he always has been a winner at Harlem’s Rice High School and at UConn, but that means nothing if he offers nothing for the Knicks. Right now, he does nothing to move the Knicks. Maybe he proves everyone wrong.
Lillard is a different story. He is a sure thing. Getting him extends Rose’s honeymoon and increases the Knicks’ chance of finally ending a tiresome 48 years and counting championship drought.
Getting him won’t be easy, but nothing comes easy.
Rose will earn his money and street cred by finding a way.