Knicks To Bench Kemba Walker, Start Alec Burks

The Knicks have decided to pull point guard Kemba Walker from the starting lineup and regular rotation, coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, via Marc Berman of the New York Post.Kemba Walker

Walker was signed to a two-year, $18 million contract before the season, and will be replaced in the starting lineup by veteran guard Alec Burks.

“It’s a tough decision to make. But you always have to do what you think is best for the team,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person, number one, and all that he’s accomplished in this league … But I do what I think is best for the team.”

In 18 games this season, Walker is averaging 11.7 points and 3.1 assists, far from his All-Star numbers of yesteryear. The Knicks also use Derrick Rose plenty at the position, perhaps leaving Walker as the odd man out entirely.

“I just don’t like the way we’ve been trending, the inconsistency of our team and we’re gonna try to make a change,” Thibodeau said. “I want to get bigger…I want our defense to be more intact. So basically that was it I got to do something different.”

Walker arrived after the Celtics traded him to the Thunder, then had his contract bought out by OKC. As Berman noted, there were plenty of doubts after Walker was limited to just 432 games by a knee issue last season with the Celtics.

Meanwhile, Burks has seemingly stepped up.

“Having signed a new three-year, $30MM contract with the Knicks in the offseason, Burks has averaged 10.5 PPG on .426/.451/.800 shooting in 20 games (22.3 MPG) so far in 2021/22 and has been a more reliable presence on defense,” wrote Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors. “The team has a +5.2 net rating in his minutes.”

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