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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Walker’s welcome: Kemba comes residence to play for the Knicks

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The “Welcome to New York” indicators adorning the surface of Madison Sq. Backyard and hanging behind him have been good, although pointless.

Kemba Walker wants no introduction round right here.

He is a New York native who was already taking part in at Madison Sq. Backyard in highschool and made a memorable buzzer-beater throughout a historic Massive East event run whereas taking part in for Connecticut.


Now he will get to see what he can do whereas taking part in there for the New York Knicks.

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“It’s going to be higher,” Walker stated. “Ten instances higher.”

The Knicks held a information convention Tuesday to announce the additions of Walker and Evan Fournier, his teammate final season with the Boston Celtics who was acquired in a sign-and-trade deal.

Fournier, like many across the NBA, referred to as Madison Sq. Backyard his favourite area. However few gamers — Knicks or in any other case — can match Walker’s historical past within the constructing.

The spotlight video montage that performed earlier than the start of the news conference included Walker’s step-back jumper to beat Pittsburgh within the quarterfinals of the 2011 Massive East tourney, when he led the Huskies to a surprising stretch of 5 wins in 5 days.

“That was only a particular, particular run,” Walker stated.

They adopted it by successful the NCAA championship, with Walker the Most Excellent Participant. He went on to play eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets and thought there was an opportunity he would signal with the Knicks in 2019 as a free agent earlier than as an alternative going to Boston.

Now, a decade after he lit up the sector, the sector was lit up along with his image.

“I believe every little thing is ideal. All the things,” Walker stated. “Good timing.”

It occurred after the Celtics traded him to Oklahoma Metropolis in June. Walker agreed to a buyout so he may signal elsewhere, although stated the Knicks have been his solely alternative.

At 31, the 6-foot-1 Walker could not be the identical participant who has averaged 19.9 factors and been chosen to 4 All-Star Video games. He struggled with knee ache in every of the previous two postseasons, although stated Tuesday he feels nice now.

It doesn’t matter what, his signing was fashionable in New York, the place the Knicks have lengthy looked for a degree guard and should have lastly discovered one proper on the town. Walker was besieged by messages from pals, {old} coaches and past following the information that he’d be a Knick.

“I deliberate on telling everyone I solely get 4 tickets,” Walker joked to a small crowd at MSG that included his mom and sister.

Fournier agreed to his four-year deal value about $78 million whereas in Tokyo, the place he was France’s main scorer within the Olympics. The French beat the U.S. of their opening sport and misplaced to them within the ultimate, matching their finest end with a silver medal.

The swingman averaged 17.1 factors final season for Orlando and Boston and will present scoring punch for a Knicks staff that defended effectively below Tom Thibodeau however was looking for extra offense within the offseason.

Fournier spoke to Thibodeau throughout the event, with the coach not solely wooing the participant but additionally speaking trash to him, telling Fournier that after he received a silver medal that he wanted to return to New York and speak.

“Sadly that’s what occurred,” stated Fournier, although he knew by then that the Knicks have been his vacation spot.

“It was fairly clear to me that New York was going to be the staff for me,” he stated.

The Knicks introduced Tuesday they’d acquired Fournier together with a pair of second-round draft picks for money concerns.


They hoped at one time that Frank Ntilikina, Fournier’s teammate with the French nationwide staff, may very well be their level guard resolution. However the final lottery decide of Phil Jackson simply earlier than he was ousted as Knicks president by no means developed and the search continued.

It led them to Walker, who was on trip when he discovered he was dealt to Oklahoma Metropolis.

Trip is over. Now he’s residence.

“I can’t actually put into phrases how wonderful this sense is, being at residence,” Walker stated.

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