Celtics

Why ex-Celtic Kemba Walker is no longer in Knicks' rotation

Celtics

Kemba Walker's honeymoon period with the New York Knicks has ended in a hurry.

The Knicks guard and New York native has been removed from the team's rotation, head coach Tom Thibodeau revealed Monday.

Thibodeau explained he wants to "tighten up" the Knicks' rotation, adopting a lineup similar to the one New York rolled out Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks. Walker was inactive for that game, while Alec Burks scored 23 points as the team's starting point guard with Immanuel Quickley playing 31 minutes off the bench. (Derrick Rose is day-to-day with an ankle injury but is playing 22.3 minutes per game as well.)

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"It's a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team," Thibodeau said of his decision to bench Walker.

"I view Kemba as a starter, and so it'd be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I've got great respect for Kemba as a person, No. 1, and all that he's accomplished in this league. But I have to do what's best for the team."

Walker has scored in double figures just once in his last five games and is averaging career lows in points (11.7), assists (3.1) and rebounds (2.6) per game. The 6-foot guard is also a liability on defense for a Knicks team that values getting stops.

Still, this is a surprising development for a player like Walker, a four-time All-Star who was on a maximum contract with the Celtics until last season and averaged nearly 20 points per game over two seasons in Boston.

 

In hindsight, it looks like Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens made the right decision to trade Walker this summer for a return that included veteran big man Al Horford. Horford has been a solid frontcourt presence in Boston, while free-agent signing Dennis Schroder is putting up 17.1 points and 4.9 assists per game as Walker's replacement.

Considering Schroder is making just $5.9 million this season while Walker is on a two-year, $17.9 million deal, that seems like a fortuitous swap for the C's.