kemba walker
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks fall to the Wizards despite 44 points from Kemba Walker.

Kemba Walker is back in the starting lineup and he’s putting up monster numbers. The New York Knicks are still losing games. It doesn’t seem to matter what lineup Tom Thibodeau puts out on the floor.

The Knicks can’t find a groove.

Walker was unconscious at times in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. On Christmas Eve Eve, Walker brought some cheer to the fans in MSG. He dropped 44 points on 7-for-14 from three and 9-for-9 from the free-throw line. Add in nine rebounds and eight assists and it was Walker’s best game of the year, without a doubt.

It’s too cliché to say this was reminiscent of Walker in the Big East Tournament, so I won’t say it. But it’s OK if you were thinking that.

Not long ago, we were contemplating possible trade destinations for Walker after his benching. With so many Knicks out due to COVID, Walker got the call and took advantage of the opportunity, averaging 31.3 points over his last three games.

He’s not going anywhere with Derrick Rose sidelined due to ankle surgery. The Knicks are going to need Walker for the foreseeable future.

But again, Walker’s offensive eruption wasn’t enough to put the Knicks over the top against the Bradley Beal-less Washington Wizards.

As 2021 winds down, it’s easy to forget that the Knicks were one of the stingiest defenses in the NBA earlier this year. Even without Bradley Beal, the current Knicks couldn’t stop a nosebleed against the Wizards. Washington on 16-for-37 from deep and 30 assists on 42 total field goals.

Scoring wasn’t a problem for the Knicks. After all, they put up 117 with Kemba cooking. Defense is still the issue for New York.

Seven different Wizards finished in double figures. Seven!

There is no continuity on defense and it’s easy to blame that on the COVID issues the Knicks are facing, but the defense has been an issue all season long.

Knicks COVID Update

Three Knicks exited COVID protocols on Thursday, but only one played against the Wizards — Obi Toppin — and he played sparingly. Quentin Grimes was listed as available but saw no action. RJ Barrett did not dress for the game.

It’s tough to expect guys coming out of COVID protocols to play big minutes right away. This trio might be more game-ready by Christmas Day.

Kevin Knox (12/16), Deuce McBride (12/18), Immanuel Quickley (12/18), and Nerlens Noel (12/22) are all in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. However, the NBA is amending protocols to potentially allow players to return after six days according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

There’s no guarantee that Knox, McBride, and Quickley will be back in time for Christmas Day, but it’s a possibility at this point.

But on the flip side, the amended COVID protocols could also pave the way for Trae Young to return to the court for the Atlanta Hawks. Young became the biggest villain in NYC since Green Goblin with his playoff outburst in MSG.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.