The New York Knicks surprised us all with a good — no, a great — 2020-21 campaign. This time around, though, a playoff appearance would surprise absolutely no one. Aside from the continued development of players like RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, along with the rise to stardom for Julius Randle, New York made some big offseason moves that further strengthen the roster and put them in a position to land in the top half of the Eastern Conference.
The most significant of all those acquisitions was veteran point guard Kemba Walker. Though he's never been on the Knicks before, coming to play at Madison Square Garden is a return of sorts for the Bronx native, and he's thrilled to be back home. Joining Zach Lowe on his podcast, Walker described his feelings as his first season with the Knicks draws near.
"Oh man, it's kind of an indescribable feeling, you know. It's like, surreal," Walker said. "Every day I wake up just like, wow. I'm really back where I started, you know? It's crazy."
Lowe did acknowledge that a return back home is sometimes a mixed bag for certain players, and Walker agreed that there are some respects about the return that will required getting used to.
"I think you're right, obviously, about players coming back home, because it's just so much. I mean, we're from here and we know so many people," Walker said. "A lot of requests, everybody's gonna be pulling you from 20 million different directions, you know, but I think I had that feeling when I was younger. Now that I'm older and, you know, pretty established, just really comfortable in my own skin, things are just different.
"I just know how to move around and the most important thing, I think for me, is I know how to say no, which can be really hard as a professional athlete, especially being younger. So yeah, I'm really comfortable, I just know how to go about things in a whole different way, so coming back home is just special. It was a special opportunity for me and I just had to take it."
And while coming back home is a special feeling, it's even more important for the Knicks and their fan base that their star point guard stays healthy for his new team, an issue that has plagued the now 31-year-old for the past couple of years. Fortunately, his health is in a good place entering his 11th year in the league.
"My knee feels really, really good and I've literally done everything I can to make myself feel as good as possible," Walker explained. "And these guys, they've got the trainers over here doing their best job to make me feel as good as possible. So yeah, I've been at every single practice, I've played in two preseason games... I'm ready to go. I feel good, I'm ready to get this thing started."
Walker, a four-time All-Star in the past five seasons, spent the past two years struggling with his ability to stay on the court with the Boston Celtics. Should he stay healthy, there's no reason why the Knicks shouldn't be able to compete for a postseason berth in the East. As of now, FiveThirtyEight projects the Knicks to finish eighth in the East, behind the Bucks, 76ers, Hawks, Nets, Celtics, Heat and Pacers.