Report: Knicks among 4 potential landing spots for Russell Westbrook

Solving their point guard woes will be one of the top priorities for the New York Knicks this summer.

Unless Donovan Mitchell suddenly becomes available, the options are scarce. Jalen Brunson is reportedly the Knicks’ top free-agent target, but there’s also the intriguing possibility of a one-year rental of Los Angeles Lakers’ disgruntled star Russell Westbrook.

The Athletic’s Lakers beat reporter Jovan Buha named the Knicks as one of the potential landing spots for Westbrook this summer via trade, in addition to the Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, and most recently, Indiana Pacers.

“I think New York and in that rumored deal that had initially been in some form of [Evan] Fournier, Kemba [Walker]. Julius Randle seems to be very unhappy there. Is that something that the Knicks would be interested in? I don’t think Russ and Tom Thibodeau, even though Russ, let’s say, isn’t the most interested defender at all times, I think there’s a kind of natural pairing there personality-wise,” Buha said on The Forum Club podcast recently.

The 33-year-old Westbrook averaged only 18.5 points with the Lakers, his lowest since his sophomore season. He failed to adjust to playing the third wheel behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A change of scenery in New York where he could have the ball more on his hands and run with the Knicks’ young core could presumably reinvigorate Westbrook.

“Aside from New York, who I think would really be trying to hype up like you know, Russ, Mr. triple-double and him transition on Broadway and stuff like that, the other situations would primarily be financially driven and more of a salary cap, kind of flexibility and sort of asset accumulation [move],” Buha added.

Westbrook will likely opt into his $47 million player option. The Rockets can easily swap John Wall, a Klutch Sports client, but the Lakers were not willing to give up their 2027 first-round draft pick at the trade deadline. After the NBA Draft in June, the Lakers can now also offer their 2029 first-round pick.

Trading for an expiring salary with additional draft assets is the kind of deal the Knicks front office has been leveraging since team president Leon Rose came on board.

While Randle has reiterated his desire to stay in New York, the emergence of Obi Toppin in the Knicks’ final five games could push the Knicks to shop Randle this summer. They could take a hard look at Westbrook and get a future first-round pick in return.

A combination of Randle and Evan Fournier or Randle, Walker, and Alec Burks could match the salaries.

If the Knicks hold on to Randle, Fournier, Walker, Burks, and Nerlens Noel could also do the math. Breaking down Westbrook’s massive expiring contract into four seasoned veterans will give the Lakers shooting and defense, which they lacked this season.

For the Knicks, trading away their veterans would force Thibodeau to finally relent to giving more prominent roles to Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Cam Reddish, and Jericho Sims.

At the same time, it will open up a huge salary cap space in 2023 free agency once the Westbrook deal expires.

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Lack of chemistry, true point guard keep Knicks fumbling

The success of New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s schemes is predicated on his players playing on a string.

Last season, the Knicks were tied together. They may not have as many scoring punches as they have assembled this summer, but they blended well together. They complemented each other. They were predictable. But they have consistency.

They are the exact opposite of who they were from the previous year this season.

The Knicks bogged down again down the stretch, coughing up only four points in the final seven minutes to let a crucial game against the Philadelphia 76ers slip away Sunday.

If there’s anything predictable about the Knicks this season, it is that they’re going to collapse at some point after a promising start or solid play midway.

“We have a group of guys — we all love each other, and I mean that, but getting down the stretch, that’s not good enough,” Evan Fournier told reporters after the Knicks broke down anew in the fourth quarter.

They were right at the doorstep of an upset. They were battling the offensively-loaded 76ers neck-and-neck until they fell apart.

Embiid strung up eight straight points, six from free throws, to start Philadelphia’s break away from a tight 106-105 lead with 7:01 left. With the Knicks forced to play small after their centers, Jericho Sims and Mitchell Robinson, fouled out less than 30 seconds apart, the 76ers took advantage.

The Knicks couldn’t secure the defensive rebound off a Tyrese Maxey miss. Tobias Harris, struggling with only five points, tapped out the offensive rebound and Philadelphia’s ball movement found him back for an open three-pointer from the corner.

The 76ers’ lead grew to eight. The Knicks shrunk under pressure.

“We are lacking confidence right now as a group,” Fournier said. “We’re not tied together enough. Down the stretch, we have no confidence. We’re second-guessing at times. It should be second nature. It should be boom, boom, boom! This is what we’re doing. But as long as we’re not doing that, it’s hard to close out games against teams that are good.”

In their last nine games, beginning at their embarrassing collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks have the league’s lowest offensive rating (82.7 points per 100 possessions) and effective field goal percentage (34.9 percent) in the fourth quarter, according to NBA advanced stats.

Fournier, who was hot with six triples and 24 points in the first three quarters, only had one attempt in the fourth quarter. Overall, they only shot 9 of 25 in the fourth quarter and got outscored by 14. The 76ers closed out the game with a 19-4 run in the final 7:01 of the game.

“We need to think a little bit more about what we want to achieve when we run something,” said Fournier underscoring their lack of purpose and their disorganized play down the stretch.

Thibodeau’s hands are tied.

Kemba Walker is no longer with the team. Derrick Rose needed another procedure on his ankle that set him back further in his recovery. Miles McBride is a rookie. Immanuel Quickley is having a crash course running the team. Alec Burks is a natural wing.

Unlike the 76ers, who have James Harden, who is making life easier for Embiid and the rest, the Knicks don’t have that luxury. It should not be even a luxury. It’s a basic necessity for a team that aspires to become better than mediocre.

“To start the game, you are trying to get into a rhythm. You move the ball. You go from one side to another because everybody has to touch it. Everyone has to feel good,” Fournier said. “But fourth quarter is different. That the time to really execute our stuff and go to our best players.”

Quickly, who played the whole fourth quarter, had the lion’s share of shots but he was only 3 for 8 from the field and had zero assist. Barrett went 4 for 6. Randle missed all his three attempts. Burks and Fournier missed their lone field goal attempt.

The Knicks have set their sights on returning to the playoffs this season. They did not turn a blind eye to their sputtering offense in their playoff loss to Atlanta Hawks. But what they did was worse than being blind. They have sight but no vision of who they wanted to be.

Unlike the 76ers, who had a vision of who they wanted to be.

“Unstoppable,” Embiid said of his partnership with the point guard 76ers president Daryl Morey targeted for months.

“What are you really going to do? He’s a great passer, and obviously, I’ve got someone [next to me] that attracts a lot of attention to him, so you’ve got to make a decision. Do you stay on me, or do you stay on him? And if you want to guard both of us with the other guys, now you’ve got Matisse [Thybulle] diving to the rim or wide-open shooters that have got one job to do, and that’s making shots. That’s all we got to keep doing,” Embiid added.

“Like I was saying in the locker room, I’m happy I don’t have to post up every single possession, so it’s great.”

Fournier could only wish the Knicks had that vision and knew how to execute. But he can only describe the Knicks’ play at the opposite end of where Embiid and the 76ers stand. 

“It’s frustrating because we’re not far at all like we should be winning these games. It’s frustrating, very frustrating,” Fournier said. 

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Knicks still have logjam despite Kemba Walker shutdown

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Around 24 minutes of playing time have opened up following Kemba Walker’s decision to sit out the final 23 games of the regular season. But that is still not enough to solve New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s quandary. Especially with Derrick Rose scheduled to return.

“Obviously, getting Derrick (Rose) and RJ (Barrett) back is significant for us. But we probably still have a logjam, so we got to figure that out,” Thibodeau told reporters after Wednesday practice.

Rose did contact drills for the first time on Wednesday, and Thibodeau said they would see how the veteran point guard feels Thursday, one day before they return to action against the Eastern Conference leader Miami Heat. Rose is expected to gobble up Walker’s minutes with the second unit as Alec Burks is penciled to be the starter.

“I think just looking, digging into the numbers and stuff, Alec (Burks) has been our best option so far,” Thibodeau explained.

With Walker as the starting point guard in the fourth-most used lineup in the league alongside Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks have been outscored by 13.8 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA’s tracking data. Take out Walker and put Burks in that lineup, and the Knicks are a much better team, outscoring their opponents by 7.4 points per 100 possessions, per Cleaning the Glass.

Thibodeau, who yanked Walker out of the rotation earlier in the season, shied away from the decision to shut down the former four-time All-Star point guard for the remainder of the season. He deferred to team president Leon Rose and Walker’s agent Jeff Schwartz, who handled the situation.

“We knew there was risk involved, and we thought it was worth it,” Thibodeau said about Walker’s signing this summer. “There were some good moments. If he’s healthy, he’s good. So, that’s about it.”

After his nine-game banishment, Walker returned with aplomb and became the high point of what appears to be his lone season with his hometown team. In December, the Bronx native had a four-game stretch where he exploded for 29, 21, and 44 points before capping it off with a triple-double on Christmas Day. But the low points exacerbated by his lingering knee issues outnumbered that one solid stretch.

Walker will go into the summer as a trade chip with an expiring contract. But even Walker’s decision to sit out, the Knicks rotation logjam still persists.

The starting five is set with Burks, Fournier, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson. Thibodeau hopes to replicate last season’s late push with Rose and Immanuel Quickley at the backcourt and their chemistry with Obi Toppin. Rookie Quentin Grimes is likely to stay in rotation. Nerlens Noel seems to be finally healthy as he participated fully in Wednesday practice. So that leaves youngsters Cam Reddish and Miles McBride, who is getting plenty of run in the G League, still on the outside, looking in.

Thibodeau defended himself from the criticisms of not buying into the player development of their young guys. Their values aren’t viewed around the league as high as other teams’ young players like the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers — two teams that built through the draft and are now on the rise.

“What people lose sight of is that they forget how young Mitchell is, how young RJ is — RJ had the best month of his career. They forget how young Obi is. Quentin Grimes is starting as a rookie. Julius is young. So the priority is everyone’s development,” Thibodeau said.

“It’s not just one particular guy. It’s easy to lock into this guy. You can’t keep adding guys to a rotation without taking guys out. Where are the minutes come from? There are a finite amount of minutes in a game.”

The Knicks tried to move some of their veterans at the trade deadline, but their disappointing first half and circumstances worked against them. Now they are stuck with a mediocre team — a mixed bag of young players who need more time to develop and veterans underperforming their contracts.

Their outlook is dire. They are 3.5 games out of the final play-in spot, with their remaining schedule the fourth toughest in the league.

Next summer couldn’t come soon enough to undo some of their miscalculations.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks: Kemba Walker’s homecoming officially comes to an end

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Kemba Walker became the first domino to fall after New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau hinted on lineup changes before the NBA All-Star break.

Walker’s New York homecoming excruciatingly came to an end Wednesday after the four-time All-Star decided to sit out the Knicks’ final 23 games. ESPN first reported the story.

“We fully support Kemba’s decision to shut it down for the remainder of the season and to use this time to prepare for next season. His long-term success on the court remains our priority,” Knicks team president Leon Rose said in a statement.

Walker will be on a $9.1 million expiring deal next season. This makes him a more palatable trade chip this summer as the Knicks hope to reshape their roster, which has been disappointing so far. Thibodeau was confronted with a rotation logjam after the Knicks failed to move Walker and their other veterans at the trade deadline. The emergence of rookie Quentin Grimes, the addition of Cam Reddish, and the impending return of Derrick Rose did not help Walker’s cause. Walker was the odd man out after he went in and out of the lineup due to lingering knee soreness.

The Knicks have spiraled to 12th in the Eastern Conference following a 3-13 record in their last 16 games. Thibodeau hinted that they could pivot to developing their younger players.

“We have a chance to reboot here,” Thibodeau said after the Knicks blew a 28-point lead to the Brooklyn Nets last week. “Everything is on the table now. Everything has to be merit-based. You earn what you get. You look at everything. How are we going to manage this? If a guy is playing good, he plays. If the team is functioning well, he should play. The team has to come first for everyone.”

Walker, a Bronx native, signed a two-year deal with the Knicks after securing a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. At that time, it was trumpeted as a low-risk, high-reward move. But save for one solid stretch in December, Walker was a shell of himself.

The 31-year old Walker was yanked out of the rotation for nine games in November before re-emerging after COVID-19 decimated the Knicks roster. He came back with a vengeance, scoring 29, 21, and a season-high 44 points before a Christmas Day triple-double. It was short-lived as he moved in and out of the lineup, signaling the beginning of an end.

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What could the Knicks realistically fetch for Kemba Walker at the trade deadline?

thom thibodeau, knicks, kemba walker

The New York Knicks have a serious point guard problem, which is why they’ve been connected to Da’Aaron Fox from the Sacramento Kings in recent days. However, after signing Kemba Walker to a two-year, $17.9 million deal, the front office is already looking for opportunities to unload his contract.

Walker has been incredibly inconsistent this year as a scorer, averaging a career-low 12 points, 3.4 assists, and shooting 40% from the field. At 31 years old, his career has taken a turn for the worse, but mainly as a result of Tom Thibodeau’s style of play.

It’s pretty difficult,’’ Walker said. “It’s just so different. It’s a different time in my career. I’m in a whole different position and role. But yeah, that’s on me to learn how to play with guys and learn when to get my shots and it’s just taking more time than what I’d like to expect.’’

Walker has always been known for his offensive prowess, but his lack of defensive production has made him a liability. On the year, Walker currently hosts a 112.7 defensive rating, the worst of his career. This is the first time since 2014 he has recorded a negative net rating, sitting at -9.4.

Despite the Knicks failing to utilize him properly, others may see the value in Walker off the bench, especially as a natural-born scorer.

According to Marc Berman, the Knicks are looking to trade Walker by the deadline, but what could he fetch?

The problem with trading Walker is not only his contract but also his lack of defense. Opposing teams that already have a situated defensive system may view him as a catalyst off the bench to provide scoring production. It is possible a team would be willing to offer a second-round pick for Walker’s services, but that would be an extremely lucky situation for New York, who would likely take anything at this point just to get the contract off the books.

Considering Kemba has gone two consecutive games without scoring a single point, the Knicks are better off trading for another point guard at the deadline or starting to utilize Miles McBride, their second-round pick from the 2021 NBA draft, more prominently.

McBride has shown quality on the court at times, enjoying his best game of the season against the Houston Rockets on December 16. He recorded 15 points and nine assists. If the Knicks can get that level of production even every other game, McBride would easily become the team’s leading point guard until Derrick Rose returns.

The more realistic way to get rid of Walker’s contract is to include him in a bigger deal instead of a straight-up swap. A team looking to acquire draft capital and has time to spare may be willing to take on Walker’s contract to push a deal through. The floated deal of Julius Randle for Fox may be able to include Kemba since they would be losing a point guard in the process.

Report: Knicks looking to free up minutes for Cam Reddish

The New York Knicks appear to have turned into sellers instead of buyers.

With barely a week before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the earlier report of the Knicks making their veterans available is getting louder. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer doubled down on this when he reported that the Knicks are looking for ways to free up the logjam in their suddenly deep rotation.

“New York is looking to free playing time for Cam Reddish in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation after acquiring the Duke product from Atlanta for a first-round pick. Each of Nerlens Noel, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks and Kemba Walker are all considered available,” Fischer wrote.

But it is unclear what the market is for their veterans who are either miscast, struggling to fit, or dealing with injuries.

Noel has only played 22 games this season due to several injuries. Walker was able to bounce back from nine DNPs and had a nice stretch, including a 44-point game and Christmas triple-double, before his knee flared up again. He had been a shell of himself since returning from his nagging knee injury. Alec Burks has gone in and out of the starting lineup, forced to play point guard while Walker and Derrick Rose were out. Evan Fournier has found his rhythm of late, but the emergence of Quentin Grimes, who offers more defensive upside, and the acquisition of Reddish, is hanging over his head.

If the reports are accurate, it is safe to assume that the Knicks are trying to consolidate some of their contracts in a 2 or 3- for-1 deal or in exchange for future assets and matching salaries.

Walker has an expiring $9.1 million salary next season, while Noel (owed $9.2 million next season) and Burks (owed $10 million next season) are basically expiring deals next season with their third year as a team option. Only Fournier is signed beyond next season. Fournier is owed $18 million next season and $18.8 million in 2023-24 with a $19 million team option in the 2024-25 season when he would still be relatively young at 31.

Contending teams could take a flier on the Knicks veterans to shore up their bench or fill up vacuums left by injured players. But among the four, only Burks and Fournier have proven to be durable and more reliable this season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the market for another ball-handler, with Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio lost for the season. The Dallas Mavericks have lost some shooting with Tim Hardaway, Jr.’s season-ending foot injury. But the Mavericks have not made Knicks target Jalen Brunson available. The Utah Jazz just lost Joe Ingles, a key piece off the bench, to an ACL injury.

They are just some of the teams that this shrewd Knicks front office could take advantage of.

But if all else fails, the Knicks might be better riding with them for the rest of the season and wait for the summer to make significant moves.

Based on Tom Thibodeau’s past teams, he rarely had a blockbuster in-season acquisition. Only the Derrick Rose trade last year could count as a significant move by a Thibodeau team. But the familiarity was already there. Unless a superstar to their liking becomes available, it’s safe to assume again that the Knicks will just work on the margins. Expect no fireworks come Feb. 10.

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Front office insider Bobby Marks suggests Westbrook to Knicks scenario

The New York Knicks are trending down with the trade deadline looming.

Despite a more spirited effort in Milwaukee last Friday night than their lackluster loss in Miami, the Knicks were no match to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Bucks.

A 3-0 shutdown in their road trip shoved the Knicks (23-27) to 12th in the Eastern Conference and a game outside the last play-in spot currently occupied by the soaring Atlanta Hawks and slumping Washington Wizards, who both carry identical 23-25 record.

With the Knicks spiraling out of the playoff picture, they are reportedly making their veterans available. ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks suggested a trade that would inject energy and star power to the Knicks’ current roster.

“[If I were the Knicks], I call the Lakers for Russell Westbrook,” Marks said on Zach Lowe’s podcast last Thursday. “I’m offering Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Evan Fournier for Russell Westbrook and [Lakers’] 2027 lottery-protected first-round pick.”

The Westbrook experiment in Los Angeles seemed ill-fitted from the start. The Lakers and the Knicks, the two biggest markets in the NBA, need a jolt to salvage their season.

From the vantage point of the Knicks, Marks said Westbrook would be returning to his primary star role with a young supporting cast.

“It’s different than the situation in Los Angeles, where you have six guys and sign guys for the minimum. You’ve got these young kids already there [in New York]. You’ve got 5-6 players under contract next year. You got (Julius) Randle there. You’re not a tax team.”

Westbrook will run the first unit composed of Randle, RJ Barrett, presumably rookie Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson in this scenario. This trade will also open a rotation spot for Cam Reddish in the second unit alongside Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, and Nerlens Noel.

“Hey, of all the flaws of Russell Westbrook, that guy competes. He’s a competitor. He’s a wildcard. I’m just watching a Knicks team that is so lethargic right now where their second unit is better than the first. Sometimes, these guys seem they don’t care,” Marks explained.

If it doesn’t pan out pairing another ball-dominant player next to Randle, the Knicks could flip Westbrook’s $47-million expiring contract next summer or ride it out and will still have a future first-round pick from the Lakers for the trouble.

For the Lakers part, the three Knicks veterans will make the LeBron James and Anthony Davis-powered lineup more balanced and deeper. It will also give them the flexibility to maximize James’ remaining window. Next season, the Lakers can choose not to pick up Burks’ team option, and it will be easier to trade Walker’s expiring contract than Westbrook’s current pact.

Lowe said one of those three Knicks veterans will likely get traded, but teams around the league are more interested in one of their young promising players.

“My educated guess is they would deal Fournier. And that would cost them,” Lowe said. “I know the vultures are circling. And they’re getting a lot of calls about Quickley. And I think they’re batting those calls away. They should. But the vultures are circling, and they’re trying to poach somebody from the Knicks, and Quickley is the name that keeps coming up.”

Unless the return is significant, it’s unlikely the Knicks are going to give up Quickley just to get rid of Fournier and his $78-million contract.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Report: Knicks shop Walker, Fournier, Burks ahead of trade deadline

The floundering New York Knicks are open for business.

It appears the Knicks are ready to move on from the Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier experiment.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday on NBA Today that the Knicks are willing to trade their prized offseason acquisitions.

“In conversations this week with teams, the Knicks have expressed a willingness to trade some of their veteran players that includes Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, guys like this,” Windhorst said. “And there’s a reason for it.”

Windhorst added that the Knicks are motivated to move some of their veterans to open up minutes for Cam Reddish, whom they acquired from the Atlanta Hawks essentially for a first-round pick. Derrick Rose’s impending return would also likely mean Walker could return to Tom Thibodeau’s doghouse if not traded by Feb. 10.

“They traded for Cam Reddish two weeks ago, and he is not getting minutes in the rotation from Tom Thibodeau,” Windhorst said. “And Derrick Rose is expected to come back from injury very soon here. It’s just too crowded, and they’re not playing well with what they have, so they’re willing to change that mix.”

Since Reddish returned from an ankle injury, he hasn’t cracked Thibodeau’s rotation. The former lottery pick out of Duke has only played a total of 15 minutes, including 10 garbage time in the Knicks’ 110-96 loss to the Miami Heat Wednesday night.

“Obviously, the Knicks traded for him; they’d like to see him play,” Windhorst said.

It appears the Reddish trade is a front-office move which Thibodeau didn’t co-sign based on the way he’s used 6-foot-8 wingman and his statements in the aftermath of the trade. But if the Knicks front office successfully moves veterans in the current rotation, Thibodeau would be left with no choice but to use Reddish.

The Knicks have lost five of their last six games to slide to 23-26 and outside the Top 10 in the Eastern Conference. Their willingness to deal their veterans away could be a sign that the Knicks are mulling over punting this season to develop their young core the rest of the way.

Walker’s days in New York have been numbered ever since Thibodeau yanked the former four-time All-Star from the rotation 20 games into the season. Fournier had his moments, but his inconsistency has become a microcosm of the Knicks’ current play this season.

Fournier is one of the most vocal supporters of Walker, whom he played with in Boston last season, and isn’t shy in criticizing Thibodeau’s offensive schemes.

The starting five of Walker, Fournier alongside RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson continue to be one of the worst lineup combinations in the league with a -15.4 net rating.

But it’s going to be a challenge to move Fournier and Walker’s contracts with their value currently at their lowest. Fournier has a $73-million price tag while Walker, who was in and out of the rotation due to his persisting knee problems and being a defensive liability, signed a two-year deal worth $17.9 million in the offseason to come home to New York.

Burks, who has played out of position due to Rose’s injury and Walker’s inconsistent availability, signed a $30 million, three-year contract with the last year as club option.

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Knicks News: Kemba Walker injury update, New York eyes 4th straight win

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The New York Knicks are preparing to take on the Charlotte Hornets on Monday afternoon at 1 PM, but they might be without Kemba Walker once again, whose last game was against Detroit on December 29. Walker has missed every game of the new year, representing six contests in which the Knicks have won five of them.

Thanks to the incredible turnaround of third-year guard RJ Barrett, Walker‘s loss has been relatively insignificant, relying on Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, and Miles McBride as the primary point guards. Recently, New York acquired Cam Reddish from the Atlanta Hawks, a young small forward with tremendous potential. However, it’s still possible they target a point guard at the deadline in hopes of adding more talent.

Recently, the Knicks were connected to Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks, and with a few weeks left to secure a deal, it is not out of the picture that the Knicks may continue to have serious talks. Usually, when there is smoke, there’s fire.

As for Kemba, he’s been dealing with a knee injury to his left leg, which was always going to be a concern this season. Bringing back Derrick Rose on a three-year deal was supposed to supplement any injury concerns, but given both are missing time simultaneously, the Knicks have had to rely on other players.

Per Marc Berman of the NY Post, Thibodeau played off Kemba Walker’s injury and focused on who’s available:

“You make your decisions based on the people you have available, but we’ll see when we get guys back,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’re always gonna do what’s best for the team, period. Whatever gives us the best chance to win, that’s what we have to do, so everyone has got to sacrifice. I want us to be at full strength. I think that gives us our best chance. So hopefully, we can get Kemba back soon and we’ll get Derrick [Rose] back and be ready to roll.’’

If Kemba is unable to start again, Charlotte, expect heavy doses of Quickley and Burks. Reddish is still coming back from an ankle issue, so don’t expect him to play for at least another few days. However, the Hornets or no pushover, sitting at 23–20 on the season but having an 11–14 record away, gives the Knicks a slight advantage. They have won four of their last five games but recently lost to one of the worst teams in basketball, the Orlando Magic.

If the Knicks want to secure victory, they need to stifle LaMelo Ball, who is averaging 19.4 points per game and 7.6 assists. Charlotte also features Miles Bridges, who is posting 19.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Limiting Bridges and Ball is easier said than done, but their best way to success is hyper-focusing on them defensively. Make their role players beat them.

Luckily for New York, they will have an advantage inside with their physicality and height but need to be wary of Charlotte‘s three-point shooting. They currently rank 3rd in the league at 37.3% from downtown. However, they are the 21st ranked rebounding team, so expect New York to present physicality and look for offensive rebounds as a catalyst for offensive production.

Knicks officially sign Ryan Arcidiacono but debut delayed by injury

After a few days’ delay, Ryan Arcidiacono officially became a member of the New York Knicks on Thursday.

But after signing a standard 10-day contract, the Knicks have listed the newly-acquired point guard in the official NBA injury report as out with sprained left ankle.

It is unclear if Arcidiacono sustained the injury at practice or before signing. New York coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to update the severity of Arcidiacono’s injury before Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics.

Arcidiacono will receive $102,831 from the Knicks that would account against their salary cap. He temporarily fills the Knicks’ 15th roster spot.

Arcidiacono can sign another 10-day contract after his first one expires on January 16 before the Knicks have to decide on retaining him for the rest of the season or waiving him.

The former Villanova star earlier signed a 10-day hardship contract, but the NBA rescinded it after several Knicks players cleared the health and safety protocols earlier than expected.

Arcidiacono has built a reputation as a high-energy and smart backup point guard in the NBA. He is viewed as insurance after the Knicks lost Derrick Rose (ankle surgery) and Kemba Walker (knee soreness).

Rose won’t return until late February while Walker is day-to-day. Walker will miss his fourth straight game Thursday against his former team, Boston Celtics.

Arcidiacono spent training camp with the Celtics but got cut. He played for the Celtics’ G League affiliate, Maine, as a starter in six games. He averaged 12.7 points, 8.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals over 32.2 minutes.

Arcidiacono spent his first four seasons in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.2 assists, and 2.0 rebounds in 17.6 minutes over 206 games, including 37 starts.

Arcidiacono played four seasons at Villanova, capping his stint with the Most Outstanding Player award in the Wildcats’ 2016 NCAA title run. He was also named First-Team All-Big East and Big East Co-Player of the Year as a junior in 2015. But despite his accolades, he went undrafted in the 2016 class headlined by Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel remains questionable as he continues to ramp up his build-up for competition after spending more than 10 days in the health and safety protocols.

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