OKLAHOMA CITY – Kemba Walker has gone from a sweet comeback story after his demotion to a New Years mystery.
An hour before the Knicks face the Thunder on Friday, Walker was ruled out with left knee pain. It wasn’t about load management, but about an incident during pre-match warm-ups, with no schedule for his return or understanding of what might be new with his arthritic left knee.
Walker was not on the bench in formal attire as the Knicks were beaten 95-80 by the rebuilding Thunder to end 2021 on a low note. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said he would be tested further.
“It was at the last minute,” said Thibodeau. “He was heating up and something was wrong. So, I haven’t spoken to the coaches yet. It was a last minute scratch. ”
Walker played both ends of a back-to-back game at Minnesota and Detroit this week – something he didn’t do last season with Boston.
When asked if it was serious, Thibodeau replied, “I don’t know because he started his warm-up and then he stopped. Then [trainer] Antoine [Goenaga] looked at it and smelled right, let’s get it examined, and then we’ll go from there. ”
The incident ruined Walker’s return to OKC where fans never met him. And fans still haven’t gotten to see Walker at the start of Miles McBride.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti traded for Walker in June, forcing him to come from Boston, apparently to get rid of his own bad contract at Al Horford and reclaim an additional first-round pick in the deal. . That’s how desperate Brad Stevens was to remove Walker and his arthritic left knee from the Celtics when he took over as team president.
The deal was struck on June 18 and speculation immediately arose that rebuilding Thunder would sell Walker’s $ 74 million two-year contract by the start of the season.
According to an NBA executive, Walker spent about a week at OKC after the exchange with medics, met the staff, trained with a Thunder coach and posed for promos in a light blue Thunder jersey. . In fact, a Google search shows that different editions of the Walker’s Thunder jerseys can be purchased online.
Thanks to the hard work of his agent, Jeff Schwartz, once free agency began, Walker returned home to New York. According to a source, Walker’s reps at Excel Management helped negotiate a deal to stay in touch with the Knicks and Thunder.
The Knicks had space available in the league and no obvious point guard to spend it on once free agents Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Spencer Dinwiddie were selected. (The Knicks weren’t interested in Lonzo Ball.)
By forgoing $ 20 million in a buyout program, Walker was able to recoup much of it by signing a two-year, $ 18 million contract with his hometown team to make a Bronx dream come true.