Kemba Walker signs with Knicks after Thunder . takeover



Through Marc Berman
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August 4, 2021 | 10:07 am | Updated August 4, 2021 | 11:57 am

Kemba Walker is coming home.

The Bronx native has agreed to join the Knicks and form a point-guard tandem with Derrick Rose after being bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, according to an NBA source.

The Thunder initially acquired Walker from the Celtics in June to turn it around.

But there was no trading market for Walker given his maximum contract — a $140 million four-year deal signed with the Hornets with two years and $74 million to go — and recent injury history.

The 31-year-old’s game took a hit last season when he suffered a left knee injury, playing in 43 of 72 games with Boston.

But the Knicks feel that Walker, who played at Rice High School in Harlem and played at UConn, is still an All-Star-caliber guard if his body is okay.

“Even if he plays ³/₄ of the season, it’s a good move,” said an NBA personnel director. “They’ve added two guys in (Evan) Fournier and Walker who can get their own shot, which I think was a huge deficit in their team last year.”

Walker, a four-time All-Star, glimpsed last season, averaging 20 points and five assists after the All-Star Break.

But his injury worsened in the Celtics’ 4-1 first-round loss to the Nets as he missed two games and looked shot.

“The last thing you want to do is get injured and not be in the playoffs for your teammates. It’s heavy, very heavy. I’m a competitor and I like to play basketball,” Walker said after the playoff elimination.

“I’m doing everything I can to help teammates win a game, and because I couldn’t do that, I’m really down. It’s a difficult situation, but I have to look ahead. I want to stay healthy and get better. That’s my goal. I plan to make a big summer and feel good about myself again. It’s been a while since I’ve really had a day off. This is an important moment for me.”

The Knicks, whose offseason looks set to be done, have a very real opportunity to hold onto fourth place if Walker returns to All-Star form.

Knicks brass enthusiastic about free agency. Flexibility. Continuity. Upgrade. Feel that their new contracts are movable if needed. Of course, Rose-Walker must be healthy.

The Knicks traded Elfrid Payton for Walker at point guard and upgraded Fournier for Reggie Bullock at shooting guard.

For now, the Knicks have no plans to waive the point guard’s recently signed non-guaranteed deal Luca Vildoza to increase their cap space from where it stands, between $9 million and $10 million. Vildoza is slated to join the club for the upcoming summer competition after Argentina lost in the Olympic semifinals on Tuesday.

Walker never thought about the Knicks when he left Charlotte as a free agent to Boston in 2019, because his family felt that playing in his hometown would create too much distraction, sources said at the time.

In fact, Walker’s family left New York for Charlotte when he became a Hornet.

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