Tom Thibodeau benches struggling Knicks G Kemba Walker ahead of Nets clash

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Kemba Walker's debut with the New York Knicks is not going as hoped.

Twenty games into the season, the four-time All-Star has found his way to the bench — as in completely removed from the Knicks' rotation.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau announced the lineup change on Monday ahead of a Tuesday crosstown matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. Alec Burks will take his place in the starting lineup. Walker won't join his teammates off the bench as a reserve, according to Thibodeau.

"It’s a tough decision to make, but you have to do what’s best for the team," Thibodeau told reporters on Monday, per New York's Newsday. "I view Kemba as a starter, and so it would be tough to play three small guards together. ... I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all that he’s accomplished in the league. But I have to do what’s best for the team."

Immanuel Quickly (6-foot-3) and Derrick Rose (6-foot-2) already come off the bench for the Knicks. Burks (6-foot-6) will give the Knicks a long, athletic presence at point guard in the starting rotation. Walker, meanwhile, will have to bide his time and hope that Thibodeau retools the lineup again. Thibodeau clarified that Walker is out of the rotation "as of right now." He also added that he wants to "tighten the rotation."

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 12: Kemba Walker #8 of the New York Knicks looks on prior to the first half of their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center on November 12, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kemba Walker has been removed from the Knicks' rotation. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Will Kemba Walker work his way back into Knicks' rotation?

Walker, 31, joined the Knicks in August after a trade from the Boston Celtics to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with which he reached a buyout agreement. He has a two-year, $17.9 million contract with New York.

Walker started 18 games for his hometown Knicks, while averaging career lows of 11.7 points, 3.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds. At his All-NBA peak with the Charlotte Hornets in 2018-19, Walker averaged 26.4 points, 6.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. His individual plus/minus tally with the Knicks is -6.8 points per game while New York has been outscored by 13.6 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor.

The Knicks are 11-9, good for seventh place in a tightly packed Eastern Conference race that has 11 teams at .500 or better as the season reaches its quarter-point.

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