The Knicks, still shorthanded due to a COVID-19 outbreak, host the lowly Pistons in a test of resolve for New York’s veterans.
The COVID-19 surge still has the New York Knicks (13-17) depleted as they welcome the Detroit Pistons (5-24) to Madison Square Garden. Remarkably, the Pistons do not have a single player in health and safety protocols. Even at full strength, the Pistons should not pose much of a challenge without their top player Jerami Grant, who remains out with a sprained UCL in his right thumb. Prior to defeating Miami on Sunday night, the Pistons had lost 14 straight games.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have six players on the COVID list and could be without Derrick Rose (ankle) to make matters even worse. The tight rotation nearly worked Saturday night in Boston as Kemba Walker returned to the starting lineup and played like a man who had something to prove.
Walker scored 29 points against his former team in the 114-107 loss. The Pistons may be at full strength, but even then they do not pose the threat the shorthanded Boston Celtics did, so a similar showing by Walker could contribute to a win.
Tonight is not just very winnable, it is a borderline must-win. The Knicks have slept walked thus far this season and have played down to their competition. Even down several key players, they should be able to beat a five-win basketball team.
Having said that, here is what else to look out for ahead of Tuesday night’s tilt.
Wrong Kind of Home Cooking
The Knicks have done the opposite of home cooking at The Garden this year. They’ve been the ones getting cooked. The team is an embarrassing 5-10 at home, their last win coming against the Los Angeles Lakers on November 23rd.
There is no rhyme or reason to the team’s struggles at home, but it is emblematic of the difference a year makes with this team. Another lackluster performance at home, especially against one of the worst teams in the league, could lead to an onslaught of boo birds from the Garden faithful.
Do Kemba Walker and Tom Thibodeau have beef? After Walker’s comments following the Celtics game, there might very well be mild beef between the guard and his head coach.
Walker confirmed that he and Thibodeau have not spoken since Walker was shunned to the bench pre-COVID wave. He also said he hated that he was benched. As pissed off as Walker could, and likely is, about being glued to the bench when the roster is at full strength, this could be the kick in the ass he needed.
Kemba's ready to step up pic.twitter.com/HFKreXSd9h
— KNICKS ON MSG (@KnicksMSGN) December 19, 2021
Walker tallied 29 points on Saturday, including 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. That is the production the team needs from him when he plays and if given the opportunity once again, one that should snatch.
Whether it is to get some trade value buzz or simply make his coach look foolish for choosing to make him the scapegoat of a possibly larger problem with the starting lineup, a revenge tour for Walker is good for all parties.
As mentioned, the Knicks are dealing with a lot of players in health and safety protocols. So much so that Damyean Dotson made a return via the hardship exception. Obi Toppin and RJ Barrett are the Knicks that would theoretically be first up to come off the list, given it has been 10 days since they went into health and safety protocols. But as of right now both remain out, as well as the following players…
- Immanuel Quickley
- Miles “Deuce” McBride
- Quentin Grimes
- Kevin Knox
Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET from The Garden. We should know more about Toppin’s condition.