The New York Knicks and guard Kemba Walker have agreed that the four-time All-Star will be sidelined for the remainder of the team’s schedule, allowing him to work out in preparation for the 2022-23 season, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
In a statement released by the team, Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose said: « We fully support Kemba’s decision to shut it down for the remainder of the season and use this time to prepare for next season. His long-term success on the court remains our priority. »
Walker, 31, signed a two-year deal with the Knicks after an August buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the partnership became fraught with starts and stops that ultimately led to the organization collaborating with his agents, Jeff Schwartz and Javon Phillips of Excel Sports, on a plan for Walker across the Knicks’ final 23 regular-season games.
Walker will be on an expiring contract this summer, and that will offer an opportunity for the Knicks and Schwartz to work on trade scenarios in the offseason.
New York is expected to get guard Derrick Rose back in the lineup soon after he missed two months following ankle surgery.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau dropped Walker from the Knicks’ playing rotation in mid-November, after he averaged 11.7 points in the team’s first 18 games. After he sat out 10 games, injuries and COVID-19 cases caused Thibodeau to reinsert Walker into the lineup, and he responded with 29 points in a Dec. 18 loss to the Boston Celtics — and a 44-point performance in a loss to the Washington Wizards days later.
Walker moved in and out of the Knicks’ lineup because of knee soreness in January, averaging eight points in 22 minutes in February prior to the All-Star break — with the Knicks losing seven of eight games.
Walker spent his first eight NBA seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, with whom he became an All-Star and franchise cornerstone. After engineering a sign-and-trade to Boston in 2019, Walker spent two seasons with the Celtics prior to the trade to Oklahoma City last year.