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Kemba Walker after scoring 29 in return to Knicks’ lineup: ‘I hate it. I want to play … I know I should be playing’

Kemba Walker in New York Knicks v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 18: Kemba Walker #8 of the New York Knicks reacts during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on December 18, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

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Kemba Walker went from starting for the Knicks to 10 straight DNP-CDs (nine if you believe the first absence of that stretch were truly for rest, as the team announced).

With New York shorthanded, he returned to the starting lineup Saturday – and scored 29 points in a loss to the Celtics.

Walker, Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports:
“I hate it. I want to play. ... I don’t know what the future holds, you know? I do feel like I have a lot to give still. I don’t know. That’s up to these guys.”

“I know I should be playing, so no question. It feels great,” Walker said when asked if it felt good to make a statement with his play. “But whatever situation I’m in, I’m gonna stay locked in, stay prepared. Whatever the team needs from me, I’ll be there for them.”

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Has Thibodeau explained anything about why this has happened?

“No sir,” Walker said.

Have you talked to him at all during the nine straight DNP-CDs?

“No sir.”

Were you confused by that?

“Was I confused?” Walker said. “No. I’m not starting, I ain’t playing,” Walker said. “So I’m here for my team, I’m here for my teammates. I can’t say it enough. Whatever’s asked of me that’s what I’m here for.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for not always seeing the forest for the trees. Obsessing over lineup construction and overlooking communication would be an example of that.

Walker is a forgiving person who puts the team first. But it’s not good to take advantage of that. Walker’s patience is clearly being tested.

The 31-year-old has declined considerably from his star peak. Undersized with less mobility than before, he has defensive shortcomings that probably grind Thibodeau.

But it definitely appears Walker can still help a team in the right role. Benching him didn’t solve New York’s problems. Against Boston, the Knicks outscored the Celtics by five in Walker’s 37 minutes (and got outscored by 12 in the other 11).

Yet, it’s unclear whether Walker will stick in the Knicks’ rotation once they get healthy.