Kemba Walker’s heroics on Thursday against the Wizards were foiled by the Knicks’ crumbling defense, but he tried to answer the urgent call after Derrick Rose went down.

NEW YORK, N.Y. — It took nearly an hour for New York Knicks point guard Kemba Walker to emerge from the locker room to speak with the media following the Bronx native’s season-best output on Thursday. But, like his weeks-long benching, he emerged at the right time.

Walker had 44 points while going 14-for-27 from the field, 7-of-14 from deep, and 9-of-9 from the line, he also had eight assists and even grabbed nine boards. It was by far his best game since joining his hometown team, but unfortunately, the Knicks still fell to the Washington Wizards 124-117.

“It felt great, it was a good time. I really wish we could have won, to be honest,” said Walker. “It’s always tough when you play really well like that and don’t come out on top, but it was definitely a very special night.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau was the only other member of the organization to speak following the game, briefly answering questions about 30 minutes before Walker. 

“He played a monster game,” said Thibs of the once-benched point guard. “But you know, we came out with a loss, so it’s a shame to waste that kind of effort with a game like that. But when you’re shorthanded like we are right now, we can’t afford not to play with great intensity on every possession.”

Both coach and point guard harped on the team’s defensive lapses; the Wizards shot over 50% from the floor and hit 16 of their 37 attempts from three. “Yeah, [our defense] very poor,” said Thibodeau. “We didn’t have control of the ball. We didn’t have stance and vision on the weak side. So it’s gonna be hard to win like that.”

“It’s tough. I really wanted to win that game,” Walker added. “We just didn’t get enough stops, man. It was a full-team effort. We could have been a lot better on that [defensive] end, for sure.”

Walker also talked about the team’s next-man-up mentality, Derrick Rose’s ankle surgery has given Kemba the opportunity to return to the lineup, “He’s been one of our leaders, he’s been playing extremely well,” Walker said of Rose. “We’re going to miss him for sure, but you know that’s the way this league works. Guys, unfortunately, go through injuries. Next man up. I know everyone says that, but that’s just the way it is. Now another guy gets the opportunity and you know, we’ve got to hold it down for our guy, for our brother until he gets back.”

Some reinforcements will arrive shortly, RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Obi Toppin all cleared COVID protocols before tip-off, although Toppin (two points in 13 minutes) was the only one to play. As of this morning, the Knicks have Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, Miles McBride, and Nerlens Noel in protocols. Thibodeau told reporters that Barrett in particular wasn’t cleared until late in the day, and was thus kept inactive.


Related Content

»READ: Does Kemba Walker deserve blame?

»READ: The importance of Derrick Rose and point guard play

»READ: Knicks’ kids struck with COVID-19 outbreak at the worst time