Despite the New York Knicks falling short against the Boston Celtics, Kemba Walker’s performance sent a resounding messages to two parties. One to Boston that he can still contribute despite an injury-filled during his Celtic tenure and one Coach Thibodeau that he deserves more than just emergency minutes as the League confronts multiple outbreaks.
“I want to play,” Walker said per ESPN. “I don’t know. So it is what it is.”
“I know I should be playing, so no question. It feels great. 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.”
After being benched three weeks ago Walker took full advantage of his opportunity, scoring a season-high 29 points in the Knicks’ 114-107 loss to the Celtics. Coach Tom Thibodeau allowed Walker back into the starting lineup after nine Knicks players became unavailable due to positive tests and Derrick Rose being out with injury.
This game may gain some headlines for Kemba, who last played on Nov. 26 in a loss to the Phoenix Suns. His 17 point third quarter led New York to the lead after falling behind big in the first half. Since Kemba’s departure from the rotation, the Knicks lost eight of the ten games he didn’t play.
After the game, Kemba Walker made it clear that he didn’t come to New York to collect DNP-CDs.
“I hate it. I want to play.”
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 19, 2021
Throughout Walker’s benching, Thibodeau fielded questions about Walker. When he made the decision, Thibs revealed just how difficult the decision was to ax Walker’s minutes on the court via ESPN.
“It’s a tough decision to make, but you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” Thibodeau said that day in explaining his decision. “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 who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league.
“But I have to do what I think is best for the team.”
This is not what Walker or the Knicks signed up for; he agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal in the offseason. Time will tell with reports that the two haven’t spoken much since the benching.