Kemba Walker's Knicks debut is also his Celtics revenge game

Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

It’s a homecoming and a revenge game in one.

The Knicks season opener Wednesday is all about their starting point guard, Kemba Walker, who was traded by the opponent in a salary dump just four months ago.

Walker, who was once billed as the point guard to bring the Celtics into title contention, said Tuesday he was surprised by the trade but understood it was about his injuries. Now he’s charged with piloting the Knicks as the local hero, starting against those hated Celtics.

“Does it matter [that we’re playing the Celtics]? Of course. It’s my old team,” Walker said. “But I don’t go into any game thinking I wanna lose, you know? So, I definitely wanna win. Does it make it that much better that it’s my old team? Yeah, no question.”

For good reason, Walker should get the loudest ovation during lineup introductions. The Bronx’s own has starred at MSG from high school through college. He’s also the big-name acquisition heading into one of the more anticipated Knicks seasons of the last decade-plus.

Add to that the storyline of a supposedly fading former All-Star who was dumped by the team he’s facing in the opener.

“I wasn’t expecting to get traded,” Walker said. “I’ve never been expected to be traded from a team, especially just because of the person I am and the kind of teammate I am, but obviously it’s not about that. It’s about what you bring to the table, and I wasn’t there all the time on the court [because of a balky knee]. So obviously, that was an issue. So, I guess that’s why it didn’t work.”

Unlike the Celtics, who two years ago gave Walker a $141 million contract, the Knicks aren’t placing too many Kemba eggs in their basket. They signed the 31-year-old after a buyout to a reasonable two-year, $18 million deal, and their backup point guard options are aplenty, with Derrick Rose, Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley.


But for the Knicks to improve on last season’s 41-31 mark, Walker will undoubtedly need to provide positive contributions. He underwhelmed in preseason while averaging 10 points and shooting under 40%, acknowledging Tuesday that new circumstances beget growing pains.

“It’s gonna take time. Some nights gonna be better than others,” Walker said. “Some nights gonna be good up until we get that chemistry going.”

Health, however, isn’t a problem. At least not yet. Walker’s arthritic knee prompted the Celtics to rest him on in back-to-back games last season, but he reiterated there’s no such plan with the Knicks.

“I’m feeling really good,” Walker said. “I’ve been available. I’ve been here. I’ve been here all practices. I’ve been able to play in all the preseason games. They rested me for the one. But as far as back to backs, just trying to take it game by game just depending on how I’m feeling, but it’s not like I’m not playing back to backs. That’s not my thought process.”

For Walker, Wednesday is an opportunity for first impressions with the Knicks and lasting impressions with the Celtics.

“It’s not just because it’s against Boston, but also because I’m from here and I’m in a Knick uniform,” Walker said. “That’s definitely gonna just make it 10 times more special.”

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