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.