Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) and New York Knicks guard...

Knicks guard Kemba Walker (8) and New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier (13) on the bench during the fourth quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden, in New York, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.  Credit: Noah K. Murray

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — It was just over three months earlier that Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier sat on a stage at Madison Square Garden, excitedly celebrating the official introduction of the two as the new pieces to continue the Knicks' rebuilding project.

But as Fournier sat in a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the team’s training center the mood was far different. Walker has been removed from the starting lineup and the rotation and Fournier, who has had his own struggles, was left to explain what has happened and what is next for the Knicks.

Walker and Fournier had already been limited in the fourth quarter on most nights and when Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau pulled the trigger on this move 20 games into the season Fournier was surprised, but not shocked.

"Yeah a little bit, a little bit, but Thibs felt he needed to make the move, and he obviously did," Fournier said. "We're pros. We know stuff like that can happen. It's all about how you can handle things like that, bounce back. It's not something that stays forever. It can be an injury, it can be foul trouble, it can be many, many situations where it's going to be somebody else or Kemba's going to play a big role again.

"It's constantly evolving and Kemba knows that I'm sure. He's a three-time All-Star, the guy is an All-NBA player. So I'm sure he would rather be on the court, but he's a pro and he's going to do great things."

Fournier played just 22 minutes Tuesday night in the 112-110 loss to the Nets at Barclays Center. He was still in the starting lineup and delivered what would have been a celebrated shot if the Knicks hadn’t lost in the final seconds, hitting a three-point field goal to tie the score with 17 seconds remaining. But he also was sitting for long stretches as the minutes went to new starter Alec Burks, Immanuel Quickley and Derrick Rose, even with RJ Barrett sitting most of the night with an illness.

"It's not my place to contest anything from the coach," Fournier said. "Coach makes his decisions based on what he thinks is best for the team. Whether I agree or not doesn't really matter. Our job is to give everything we have with what we're given.

"I've said many times, it's going to take a little bit of time. But the truth is there's no during the season. We need 'to win games now. Like I said, hopefully everything works out, but it's too early to say anything about the move yet. It's been two games. The only things we can do is give everything we have every game and see how it goes."

Walker was not made available to speak about the demotion. While injuries or effectiveness can change things, Thibodeau was clear that in moving Burks into the starting role he is not exactly experimenting.

"This is where we are," he said. "We’ve been there. So it’s not like this just happened. We’ve played this lineup a lot. So we have a good sample size."

NOTES & QUOTES: Barrett practiced Wednesday and Thibodeau said he was better, but still showing some effects of the illness.