knicks kemba walker
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Knicks HC Tom Thibodeau says Kemba Walker is out of the rotation

According to multiple reporters, New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau says Kemba Walker is out of the starting lineup. In fact, Thibs is pulling him out of the rotation entirely.

Alec Burks is taking Walker’s place in the starting lineup and it would appear as if rookie Quentin Grimes is ready to step into a role on the second unit. As it stands, the Knicks’ 10-man rotation (Thibodeau’s preferred style of subbing) will consist of:

  • Starting:
    • Alec Burks
    • Evan Fournier
    • RJ Barrett
    • Julius Randle
    • Mitchell Robinson
  • Second Unit:
    • Derrick Rose
    • Immanuel Quickley
    • Quentin Grimes
    • Obi Toppin
    • Nerlens Noel

(This rotation is assuming all 10 of those players are healthy, of course.)

It’s OK to admit that this is a somewhat stunning departure from Thibodeau’s old habits. Thibs refused to take Elfrid Payton out of the starting lineup until the playoffs last year. Way back when in Chicago, Keith Bogans was a mainstay in the starting lineup while other guys like Kyle Korver rode the bench.

But Thibodeau could obviously see the writing on the wall. The addition of Walker didn’t make the difference that most Knicks fans thought it would. Clearly, his knee issues have caught up to him. It’s a shame considering how the organization hyped up the addition of Walker as the prodigal son returning.

But the proof is in the pudding. The Knicks may have played their best game of the year with Burks in the starting lineup on Saturday night against the Hawks.

The flexibility of Burks to play on or off the ball helped facilitate this move. Thibodeau has spoken at length about his desire to keep the second unit intact. By starting Burks, the Knicks can keep the trio of Rose-Quickley-Toppin together.

Expect to see more minutes at the point for Quickley as well. He’s starting to show flashes of brilliance as a lead guard and Walker’s demotion frees up more opportunities for IQ to shine.

This also means that Grimes will have a chance to lock down a significant role. The rookie is already proving to be a tenacious defender who plays fearlessly on both ends of the court. Thibs referenced “tightening” the rotation, which could mean nine guys play instead of 10. However, if it’s 10, Grimes is the guy.

Unfortunately, the lovefest between Walker and New York City was short-lived. It was only a matter of time before Thibs trusted his eyes and made this move. Again, it’s surprising that Thibodeau is making this move, but it shows that even the most stubborn of NBA coaches can adapt.