“I’m coming to give everything I’ve got.”
Walker said as much on Tuesday while standing on top of the Empire State Building with fellow Knick Evan Fournier.
“They know,” Walker said of the Knicks fan base. “This city raised me. This city is the reason I play the way I play. They know.”
To the casual observer, Walker’s words may sound like a cliché from a local athlete returning home. But if you know Walker and his story, you know that the message he sent to Knick fans on Tuesday was authentic.
Just six weeks ago, Walker was traded from Boston to Oklahoma City, seemingly discarded by the Celtics after the club failed to meet expectations in 2021.
After agreeing to a nearly $20 million buyout with the Thunder, Walker signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Knicks.
It’s a low-risk move for a Knicks team coming off of a surprising 41-win season in 2020-21. In Walker, New York has a veteran point guard who seems to be driven, in part, by the way things ended with the Celtics.
“Really motivated. Super excited that these guys have belief in me,” Walker said Tuesday during his introductory press conference on the floor of Madison Square Garden. “That’s all I need. I just need somebody to believe in me. These guys do and I appreciate that.”
Walker is dealing with a knee injury that limited him to 43 games in 2020-21. It’s possible that Walker’s knee injury limits his playing time/availability this season with New York.
But even if he’s hampered by knee issues this season, Walker still seems like an upgrade for New York.
He averaged 20 points, five rebounds and four assists after the All-Star break last season. And he can create his own shot and good shots for his teammates.
That shot creation is something the Knicks lacked last year.
Walker should help there. And his locker room presence should benefit the Knicks’ younger players.
So the club’s decision to sign Walker should be a net benefit, even if he’s slowed by any lingering knee issue this season.
And his contract ($9 million per year) won’t hamper New York’s future flexibility.
The Knicks still have enough assets (draft picks, tradeable contracts) to take a run at trying to trade for a star.
While they wait for the opportunity to do so, the Knicks will ask Walker to help them make another run at the playoffs in 2022.
Based on what we saw and heard on Tuesday, Walker is going to embrace the challenge.
“Perfect timing,” Walker said at one point on Tuesday. “…. My guys, my hometown team, the Knicks, they believed in me. And I’m here now. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant at this point.”