AP source: Kemba Walker headed home to play for Knicks
A decade into his NBA career, Kemba Walker is heading home.
The four-time All-Star point guard will sign with the New York Knicks after agreeing to a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.
Walker — who was born in the Bronx — and the Thunder have been working on the buyout parameters in recent days, according to the person who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is not finalized.
The 31-year-old Walker is owed nearly $74 million for the next two seasons, including a $37.6 million option that he held for 2022-23. He never played for the Thunder, who acquired him in a trade with Boston in June in the deal that sent Al Horford back to the Celtics.
The move is a bit of a risk for the Knicks given Walker’s knee issues, which date back to his time with the Charlotte Hornets.
He had injury problems in the seeding round of the 2020 playoffs in the Florida bubble but bounced back to help lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals. Walker had stem cell treatment on his left knee last December and was limited to 43 games this past season. He was also limited in Boston’s first-round playoff exit against Brooklyn, missing the final two games of the series with a bone bruise in the same knee.
Walker spent his first eight seasons in Charlotte, where he surpassed Dell Curry as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
He averaged a career-best 25.6 points along with 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds during his final season there in 2018-19. However, Walker could never get the Hornets past the first round of the playoffs while playing for team owner and six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan.
The Hornets dealt the 6-foot, 184-pound Walker to Boston in 2019, where he signed a four-year, $140 million deal.
Walker was thrilled to land in Boston, figuring he finally had a chance to win an NBA title. Instead, his production fell off as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the Celtics’ offense. In two years with Boston, Walker played in 99 games, averaging 19.9 points and 4.8 assists while shooting 37.1% from 3-point range.
Going to the Knicks won’t just be a return home for Walker.
It’ll also be a chance to play more games at an arena that has provided some of his finest moments.
He won a national championship as a junior at UConn in 2011, concluding the season on an 11-game winning streak that began when the Huskies won five games in five days on the way to the Big East tournament championship at Madison Square Garden — the Knicks’ home. Walker averaged 26 points while playing nearly every minute of those five games to win the league, then went on to win the Most Outstanding Player award in the NCAA Final Four as UConn beat Butler for the national title.
In 15 games at the Garden as a pro, Walker has averaged 21.3 points.
Walker even played at MSG in high school against a team from Illinois that was headlined by Derrick Rose. Walker had 14 points, Rose 22, but Walker’s team from New York power Rice beat Rose’s Simeon High 53-51.
And now, the two point guards will be together at the Garden as Knicks teammates.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Saitama, Japan contributed to this report.
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