Kemba Walker Won’t Play For Rest Of Season

The Knicks and Kemba Walker have agreed that the veteran guard won’t play for the remainder of the 2021/22 season, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Wojnarowski, the plan is for Walker to work out in preparation for 2022/23. He’ll be on an expiring $9.2MM contract in the offseason, giving the Knicks and agent Jeff Schwartz a clearer path to work out a trade at that time, Woj adds.

The Knicks have issued a statement that confirms Walker won’t play for the rest of the season and suggests the plan was instigated by the point guard and his camp.

“We fully support Kemba’s decision to shut it down for the remainder of the season and to use this time to prepare for next season,” team president Leon Rose said in the statement. “His long-term success on the court remains our priority.”

It’s the second time this season that the Knicks have shut down Walker. The club pulled him from its rotation at the end of November and sat him for 10 games before reinserting him into a lineup that had been hit hard by injuries and COVID-19. Since then, the 31-year-old has been affected by knee soreness and has played off and on.

Although Walker had a good stretch of games in December, even earning Player of the Week honors, his health issues and defensive shortcomings has limited his ability to be a consistent, reliable contributor this season.

The four-time All-Star is averaging a career-low 11.6 PPG and 3.5 APG on .403/.367/.845 shooting in 37 appearances (25.6 MPG). The Knicks have a 114.5 defensive rating and a -9.1 net rating with Walker on the court, compared to a 107.0 defensive rating and +1.9 net rating when he’s not playing.

It’s been a disappointing homecoming for Walker, who signed a two-year, $17.9MM contract with the Knicks after being bought out by the Thunder during the 2021 offseason. The New York native had hoped to help lead the team to a second consecutive playoff appearance, but the Knicks have taken a step backward in 2021/22 and currently rank 12th in the East with a 25-34 record.

Alec Burks, Miles McBride, and/or Immanuel Quickley are candidates to take on additional ball-handling responsibilities in Walker’s absence, though many of Kemba’s minutes will likely be claimed by Derrick Rose, who is nearing a return from an ankle injury that has sidelined him since December.

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