New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker against the Washington Wizards...

New York Knicks guard Kemba Walker against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — After arriving with hype and high hopes, Kemba Walker’s debut season with the Knicks has come to an end.

Walker will shut down for the remainder of the season because of his ailing left knee and focus on getting his body ready for next season.

"We fully support Kemba's decision to shut it down for the remainder of the season and to use this time to prepare for next season," Knicks president Leon Rose said in a statement. "His long-term success on the court remains our priority."

When Walker was introduced during a news conference at Madison Square Garden last August, there were images of the Bronx native on the video boards outside and a flashy video inside. Family and friends crowded in for this moment that seemed like it had been a lifetime in the making.

But it has been a season filled with highs — an Eastern Conference Player of the Week honor — and lows — a benching that confounded even his teammates. It has now come to an abrupt and not totally unexpected ending. While the Knicks search for a way out of a troubled season, gathering for a return to practice Wednesday, they will move forward without Walker the rest of the way.

Walker played in 37 of the Knicks' 59 games, missing some to rest his knee and nine because Tom Thibodeau pulled him from the starting lineup and placed him at the end of the bench. Walker averaged career lows in points (11.6) and assists (3.5). The high hopes that both sides had when Walker signed on to take over as the point guard for a team in need of a floor general imploded.

"We knew there was risk involved," Thibodeau said. "We thought it was worth it. There were some good moments. If he’s healthy, he’s good. So, that’s about it."

When Walker was benched, Alec Burks stepped in as the starting point guard. Thibodeau could now turn to Burks, who he said has been their best option so far, or push Derrick Rose into the starting lineup. Rose practiced Wednesday and his return will depend on how he recovers. He could also give time to youngsters Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes or Miles McBride with the Knicks wallowing outside of the playoff picture.

"We’ll see how it works out," Thibodeau said. "We want to see where Derrick is tomorrow. Alec, Quick. We have some options."

While Walker showed flashes at times, the reality was what the teams that gave up on him last season knew — his left knee just would not let him be the player he once was and the player the Knicks needed him to be.

He arrived on a low-risk, two-year, $17.8 million deal after being bought out by the Thunder, who came to that parting without Walker ever suiting up after being dealt away by the Celtics. The Celtics limited Walker last season, not allowing him to play in back-to-back games, and as the season wore on it was apparent that the Knicks needed to do the same.

But if the Knicks' front office believed in him it never translated on the court. Even the highlights — the 44-point game on Dec. 23 against the Wizards, the 29-point effort in Boston or the triple-double on Christmas Day against the Hawks — could not hide that he did not fit in with what the team had built last season. Walker replaced Elfrid Payton as the starter. But he was unable to defend with his knee slowing him, could not get to the rim the way he once did and was mostly left to be a catch-and-shoot three-point weapon.

Even when he was a starter, Walker rarely was part of the finishing crew. The newly formed starting lineup with the arrival of Walker and Evan Fournier never meshed the way the team hoped. While the Knicks spoke of prioritizing his health it’s hard to imagine that his expiring contract will not be used as a trade chip in the summer after efforts to deal him at the trade deadline failed.

"That’s life," RJ Barrett said. "Just like anything, I think that just because something didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea or whatever."

When the Knicks left for the All-Star break with a 25-34 record, Thibodeau insisted that change would come.

"You just take it day by day," he said. "Obviously, getting Derrick back and getting RJ back is significant for us. We probably still have a logjam so we have to figure that out."

Notes & quotes: Thibodeau said that Rose, Barrett and Nerlens Noel all practiced in full, although Barrett noted that the sprained left ankle that sidelined him was still causing him a lot of pain. Barrett backed Thibodeau’s decision to have him in the game in the final seconds in Denver when he was injured. "I always want to be out on the court. It doesn’t matter when. So, I feel like especially spraining my ankle like that, that could have happened in the first 10 seconds of the game, so it doesn’t matter." . . . On the stories that Knicks executive VP William Wesley has been blaming him for the struggles of the revamped roster, Thibodeau said, "I talk to Wes all the time. I don’t respond to rumors or any of that stuff. I know the drill here. I’ve been here before so I don’t worry about any of that stuff.