Kemba Walker is finally back in the Big Apple and ready to rebound with his hometown New York Knicks. The veteran point guard has been a free agent since he was traded from Charlotte, but there were no shortage of suitors for his services.
Kemba Walker is ready to rebound with the hometown New York Knicks. The former Charlotte Hornets point guard was traded to the Knicks in exchange for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, and Jose Calderon on Wednesday.
2:29 PM EST ET
ESPN’s Tim Bontemps
NEW YORK (WABC) — Kemba Walker is renowned for his uncanny ability to keep a continuous grin on his face.
Even so, Walker was thrilled — appropriately so — when he was announced as the new starting point guard for his hometown New York Knicks here at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday morning, with fellow newcomer Evan Fournier.
Walker’s joy stemmed not only from the opportunity to return home and play in the arena where he established himself as a bona fide New York City legend while playing for Rice High School and then the University of Connecticut, but also from the chance to show that the knee problems that plagued him last season in Boston are no longer an issue.
“It means everything,” Walker said of the desire to show he can still be a top NBA player. “It’s at the heart of everything.” Because I am aware of the kind of player I am.
“I have a clear idea of what level I want to be at. It adds to the incentive.”
The Knicks saw Walker’s signing as an opportunity to celebrate the homecoming of a New York City legend to Madison Square Garden. But it also provided them with a low-risk, high-reward chance to grab Walker on the cheap when he agreed to a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had acquired him from the Boston Celtics in a trade back in June.
Walker was able to sign a two-year, $18 million contract with the Knicks, which he claimed was the last offer he needed to evaluate once the buyout with Oklahoma City was completed.
When asked whether now was the right moment for him to return home, Walker said, “I believe it is.” “Everything. The time was perfect. I’m very motivated. I’m ecstatic that these men believe in me.
“That is all I need. All I need is someone to believe in me. I admire what these people are doing.”
That response — “I just need somebody to believe in me” — begged the question: Did Walker, who signed a four-year max contract with Boston two summers ago only to be traded for Al Horford, along with a first-round pick, in the first significant move of Brad Stevens’ tenure as the team’s president of basketball operations, believe the Celtics believed in him?
“”I felt like Boston believed in me,” Walker recalled, smiling and shrugging, before adding, “but they traded me.” That isn’t the case, however. I didn’t get the impression that they didn’t believe in me.”
There is no question in New York’s mind that Walker is a good guy. Fat Joe, a fellow Bronx native, represented all Knicks fans at the news conference on Tuesday, donning a white No. 8 Walker jersey. Walker would then return to his All-Star form with the Knicks, according to him.
Joe said, “He’s the genuine thing.” “Out here, he’s certified.”
“When people speak about New York City being the Mecca of Basketball, Kemba is that.”
The health of Walker’s left knee is the most pressing concern at this time. Walker has been coping with it since the beginning of 2020. He didn’t play in back-to-back games last season after completing a 12-week strengthening program over the summer.
When asked whether that would be the case this season, Walker replied, “You have ask him,” alluding to coach Tom Thibodeau, who was seated in the front row with club president Leon Rose and general manager Scott Perry.
Thibodeau responded with a single word: “Playing,” which elicited a wave of applause.
Last season, Fournier played with Walker for the Celtics, who acquired him at the trade deadline as part of the trade exception established when Gordon Hayward was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in a sign-and-trade deal last summer.
To attempt to achieve the same result, the Celtics agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks on Tuesday, sending two future seconds to New York, one of whom is highly protected.
Fournier is coming off a great performance with the French National Team at the Tokyo Olympics, where he earned a silver medal, and he claims Thibodeau chastised him about it on their recruiting call in New York.
Fournier stated of playing in Japan, “Yeah, my confidence level was excellent.” “It’s really very excellent.” When I was on the phone with Leon, Thibs, and Scott before the gold medal game, Thibs informed me that as soon as I finished silver, I needed to travel to New York so we could speak.
“That was his way of yelling some nonsense, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what occurred. But I’m pleased of what we’ve achieved for my country, and our aim is to continue shining for France, especially because we’ll be hosting the Olympics in three years, in 2024. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Walker and the Knicks are attempting to follow up their unexpected breakthrough season in 2020-21 with another playoff participation next season, just as Walker is attempting to reclaim his former form.
While he claims he doesn’t feel any extra pressure playing in New York — he joked that he’s already telling people he only gets four tickets each game — he did acknowledge that knowing he’ll be playing for his local club has been different.
“This sensation is unlike any other. I’m feeling chills all of a sudden “he said “It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to return home. I don’t believe there will be any more pressure. I’ll be OK as long as I’m in a wonderful atmosphere with amazing people.”
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