Kemba Walker didn’t shut the door completely, leaving it open just enough to give Knicks fans a glimmer of hope.
“I don’t have any interest in coming back home — right now,” the Hornets’ free-agent-to-be point guard said when asked if playing for his hometown Knicks would appeal to him.
At least the dynamic Bronx native didn’t rule it out, like Kyrie Irving has basically done while repeatedly saying he plans to re-up with the Celtics. Walker, a 6-foot-1 floor general and two-time All-Star, must have had Knicks higher-ups drooling about the possibilities of adding him to their young core. He owned the Garden floor yet again Sunday, like he has going all the way back to his days at since-closed Rice High School through his time at UConn and now in the NBA with the Hornets.
“I think he’s one of the top five in the league at his position,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said.
Walker, 28, dazzled Sunday night in a 119-107 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated, showing his entire repertoire. There was his deft handle. His quick hands. His 3-point shooting. The Knicks never had a chance, as Walker torched them for 25 points, four 3-pointers, six rebounds, six assists, four steals and just two turnovers.
“I mean, I’m home. This is where I’m from,” Walker said when asked why he likes playing at the Garden so much. “I’m pretty sure anyone that goes home to play where they’re from, it’s exciting for them. [It’s exciting] for me, when I get a chance to play in front of my family and friends, play in front of the people that know me best.”
Despite the lopsided results, the Knicks’ young players were impressive, possibly showing Walker some of the pieces that could surround him. Rookie Kevin Knox equaled a career high with 26 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Frank Ntilikina added a career-high 18 points.
“They played well, but I’m really just focused on my team,” Walker, averaging career highs of 25.8 points and 6.2 assists per game, said. “Those guys are good. I have a lot of respect for those guys. I watched Knox in college and Frank has gotten better.”
Walker was most pleased with the final quarter, in which he didn’t step on the floor. He didn’t offer any hints of his future plans, saying he’s focused on the Hornets’ season and leading them back to the playoffs after two straight seasons in the lottery.
“I have no idea. I’m in the season right now,” he said. “Whenever the time comes, it comes.”
In the summer, Walker shed more light on the situation, and the chatter he hears potentially about coming back home.
“I’ve been hearing it for years now, the Knicks,” Walker said then. “Every time I come home, it’s ‘When are you coming home to the Knicks?’ MSG is a special place, man. The Knicks are a special team. Of course, I’ve been a Knicks fan growing up, always rooted for the home team. But I really can’t see myself in a Knicks jersey — only because I’ve been in one jersey. I really don’t know.”
He still doesn’t have much of an idea, or at least he’s not talking publicly about it. But his latest Garden performance probably only enhanced how the Knicks feel about him and how much their fans would like to see him come back home this summer.
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