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Ex-Knick Kemba Walker on why he shut it down last season

DALLAS — Kemba Walker knew he had to make the decision to shut it down last February, leaving the Knicks to take care of his balky knee with an eye on continuing his NBA career.

Following a salary-dump trade to Detroit this summer and a subsequent release by the Pistons, the Bronx native and former UConn star hooked on with the Mavericks last month. Walker averaged 12.8 points over 23.8 minutes per game in his first five appearances for Dallas.

After sitting out the previous two games for maintenance on his knee, he scored one point in five minutes during the Knicks’ 126-121 overtime loss to the Mavericks.

“It wasn’t that tough, to be honest. It was a selfish decision, actually,” Walker said of his shutdown last season. “I was looking out for myself. I wanted to get right. At that time, I wasn’t playing much at all. So it just didn’t make sense.

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
Getty Images

“To be honest, I just kept working. Working my butt off trying to get myself back. These guys gave me a call. So that’s definitely much appreciated.”

The four-time All-Star, who signed a two-year contract worth $16 million with the Knicks before last season, stressed that he felt “definitely no hard feelings” and “no bad blood” toward the organization.

“I’m from New York. I’m always going to root for my team. Ain’t no bad blood at all,” said Walker, who managed a triple-double at the Garden for the Knicks on Christmas of 2021. “It meant a lot. It was cool. Especially when they were chanting my name at the Garden. That was a super-dope feeling.

“I’m a New York City kid, born and raised. Those were some great memories for me that I will remember and definitely cherish for a very long time.”

Asked about Walker before the game, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said: “Look, I love Kemba. Kemba has been a great player in the league for a long time. The only issue we had with Kemba was health. If Kemba’s healthy, he’s a great guy and he’s a great player.”

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