2021 Free Agency

Knicks make it official, sign Kemba Walker off waivers

The former All-Star guard has signed with his hometown Knicks after being bought out by the Thunder last week.

Kemba Walker spent last season with the Celtics, averaging 19.3 points per game.

Former All-Star guard Kemba Walker has signed with the Knicks, New York announced today, making official a move that was reported for the past week. Walker parted ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Aug. 6, when he was waived by them after being traded there in the offseason.

The news of Walker’s return to his hometown team was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and confirmed by several others. The 31-year-old Walker is owed nearly $74 million for the next two seasons, including a $37.6 million option that he held for 2022-23. He never played for the Thunder, who acquired him in a trade with Boston in June in the deal that sent Al Horford back to the Celtics.

Walker was guaranteed more than $73 million over the next two seasons. But after helping the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference finals in the NBA bubble last season the four-time All-Star he was limited by knee injuries to 43 games in 2021; he missed the last two games of the first-round playoff loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

Walker’s move to the Knicks puts him on one of the teams that was quite active in free agency. Walker’s former teammate in Boston last season, free-agent guard Evan Fournier, reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with New York. Aside from that move, the Knicks also reportedly re-signed their own free agents: guard Derrick Rose (a reported three-year deal), center Nerlens Noel (three-year deal), guard Alec Burks (three-year deal) and forward Taj Gibson (one-year deal).

Going to the Knicks won’t just be a return home for Walker.

It’ll also be a chance to play more games at an arena that has provided some of his finest moments.

He won a national championship as a junior at UConn in 2011, concluding the season on an 11-game winning streak that began when the Huskies won five games in five days on the way to the Big East tournament championship at Madison Square Garden — the Knicks’ home. Walker averaged 26 points while playing nearly every minute of those five games to win the league, then went on to win the Most Outstanding Player award in the NCAA Final Four as UConn beat Butler for the national title.

In 15 games at the Garden as a pro, Walker has averaged 21.3 points.

New York native Kemba Walker starred at Madison Square Garden in college. The Knicks are betting he can do it again with them.

Walker was a four-time All-Star, earning three of those berths during his days with the Charlotte Hornets from 2011-19. The Hornets’ all-time leading scorer, Walker left Charlotte in free agency in the summer of 2019 to sign with Boston in a move that was expected to help lift the Celtics into the East elite.

For the moment, it did, as Walker teamed with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power Boston to a 48-24 finish and the 2020 Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics were dispatched in six games by the Miami Heat and had hopes of another strong season in 2020-21, but that never came to pass. Boston opted to move on from Walker and brought back Horford to give the Celtics the frontcourt presence they’ve lacked since he left two seasons ago.

As for the Thunder, their rebuilding process will continue as they develop around rising star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who signed a max extension in the offseason). OKC has a cache of future Draft picks and will be working the five players it picked in the 2021 NBA Draft into the mix in 2021-22.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.