Tom Thibodeau gives update on Kemba Walker return: ‘He’ll let us know when he’s ready’

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Kemba Walker solo smile Christmas Day
Kemba Walker solo smile Christmas Day

Kemba Walker has missed nine straight games for the Knicks due to a knee injury, but according to coach Tom Thibodeau his All-Star guard will return to the team when he’s ready.

“The big thing regarding Kemba is I want him to feel as good as possible,” Thibodeau said after Monday’s 97-87 loss to the Hornets. “A player like him, in a situation that he’s in, I want him to completely trust where he is with his body….He’ll let us know when he’s ready. I trust him.”

“He’s pretty close,” Thibodeau added. “He’s loading up pretty good. When he’s there we’ll know, he’ll know.”

The Knicks are 5-4 in Kemba’s absence, but won five of their last six before falling to Charlotte on Monday. And before his injury, the Knicks and Kemba won four of five, which is indicative of the team’s inconsistent 2021-22 season.

After Monday’s loss, the Knicks are 22-22 and are currently the 11-seed of the Eastern Conference. Injuries to Walker and Derrick Rose, among others, have contributed to the Knicks’ mediocre season so far. While the emergence of RJ Barrett as a premiere scorer has helped them in this current run, getting Walker back would not only take the burden of the scoring off of Barrett and Julius Randle, but would give the team much-needed depth.

However, Thibodeau knows Walker's health and availability are what’s most important and that’s why everyone is being patient.

“What I don’t want is to get into a situation where it’s on/off,” Thibodeau said. “I want [Kemba] to get to a point where he feels confident and is in a good spot, a good place and he can go.”

Kemba has a history of injuries, including missing 29 games with the Celtics last season as well as missing two games in Boston’s first round playoff series with a bone bruise in the same knee where he had surgery in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016 to repair a torn meniscus.

Although Kemba has downplayed his knee injuries when he signed with the Knicks, the team is hoping he’s ready for the playoff push which will make the wait for his return worth it.