Looks like Kemba Time might already be over in New York.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau told the media Monday that point guard Kemba Walker will be out of the rotation “for now,” and that Alec Burks will remain the starting point guard for the time being as he tightens up his rotation.
“It's a tough decision; have great respect for Kemba as a person and all he’s accomplished in the league, but I have to do what I think is best for the team," Thibodeau said. "I want to tighten up the rotation and I like the way the team functions."
Walker, a Bronx native, signed a two-year, $17.9 million deal with the Knicks in August after being bought out by the Thunder, who acquired him from Boston in June. The UConn product’s homecoming was cause for excitement, even after he missed roughly half of the games in his two seasons in Boston due to knee issues, and he cashed in on that with a 10-point, eight-assist performance in his Knicks debut, a 138-134 double OT win over his old pals in Boston on October 20.
That, however, may have been the apex of Kemba Time at MSG, as he has averaged career lows across the board with 11.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 24.5 minutes per game. On top of that, in his 441 minutes on court, he has a minus-122 rating – meaning the Knicks have been outscored by 122 points this season while Walker was on the floor – and his -6.8 average plus/minus over 18 games is 449th out of 467 qualified players in the NBA.
Walker has shot the three at a 41.3 percent clip, but on the defensive end, the Knicks have a 116.3 defensive rating and a -13.3 net rating with Walker on the court, compared to a 99.0 defensive rating and +11.2 net rating when he sits.
"I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together," Thibodeau said. "I gave it consideration, but I have to do what I think is best for the team."
Burks, meanwhile, scored 23 points against the Hawks on Saturday, taking the reins while Walker rested his knee and Derrick Rose remained out. He had averaged 10.5 points per game so far in the first year of his new three-year, $30 million deal, and the team has a +5.2 net rating in his minutes.
"I don't like the way we've been trending, with the inconsistency, and we have to do something different," Thibs said of making Burks his starting PG. "I want to get bigger and get our defense more intact, and I liked the way we played with (Burks at PG)."
Immanuel Quickley has also come on strong as of late and the Knicks hope to have Rose back from his ankle injury sooner than later, leaving Walker on the outside looking in for now.
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