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Kemba Walker Discusses Being 'Really Motivated' After Signing Knicks Contract

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVAugust 18, 2021

Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Kemba Walker is excited to be back home. The New York native, who signed a two-year, $17.9 million deal with the Knicks this offseason after agreeing to a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder, said it was the right moment in his career to return to the Big Apple.

"I think it is. Everything. Perfect timing," he told reporters Tuesday. "Really motivated. Super excited that these guys have belief in me. That's all I need. I just need somebody to believe in me. These guys do, and I appreciate that."

"This feeling has been like no other," he added. "Just randomly getting goosebumps. It's an unbelievable feeling to be able to come home. As far as added pressure—I don't think so. As long as I'm in a great environment around great people I'll be fine."

Walker, 31, has had a fascinating offseason. First he was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Thunder, in a deal that sent Al Horford the other way. But with OKC in a full rebuilding mode, Walker wasn't a logical fit. 

And Walker reportedly gave up a pretty penny in his buyout:

Keith Smith @KeithSmithNBA

Kemba Walker gave up $20M total in his buyout/waiver with the Oklahoma City Thunder, sources tell <a href="https://twitter.com/spotrac?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@spotrac</a>.<br><br>Walker gave up $9,777,778 in 2021-22 and $10,222,222 in 2022-23.

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The Knicks have been busy themselves this offseason, adding Walker and Evan Fournier in free agency, re-signing Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and Taj Gibson, agreeing to a long-term extension with Julius Randle and drafting Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride and Jericho Sims, among other moves. 

Do those moves propel the Knicks, who made the postseason last year, to the top of the Eastern Conference? 

Well, no. More than likely, the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks will remain ahead of the Knicks. New York should be better with the additions they made, but the rest of the Eastern Conference improved around them. This is a team that more than likely will be fighting for the No. 6 seed and the right to avoid the play-in tournament.

The Knicks' upside will be tied, in part, to Walker's health. He's battled left-knee issues for the past year, resulting in a disappointing 2020-21 campaign (19.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 42 percent shooting from the field, 36 percent shooting from three in 43 contests) by his own lofty standards. If he's fully healthy, however, a one-two punch of Randle and Walker will be formidable. 

All of New York City is banking on Walker's return home being a fruitful reunion. 

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