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Kemba Walker blames himself for Knicks' starters slow start

Kemba Walker #8 of the Knicks dribbles against

Kemba Walker #8 of the Knicks dribbles against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 8, 2021 in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Tim Nwachukwu

Kemba Walker is ready to take the blame.

A day after Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau called out Walker and the rest of the Knicks starters for their slow start to the season, the Knicks point guard said that it is up to him to find a way to get the rest of the first unit going.

"I would like to put the onus on myself to be honest," Walker said Thursday, some 12 hours after scoring just two points in an ugly 112-100 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. "I think I can help my teammates better at the start of games. I think I can use my voice a little more.

"I don’t think I’m energetic enough. And that needs to be my role. I need to get my get my guys going. I will definitely take some onus on that aspect. I gotta do it. I gotta do it."

Walker is averaging a career-low 11.3 points this season, his first with the Knicks. Wednesday’s game was his worst of the season as he had two assists and scored just two points on 1-for-7 shooting. Walker, however, was far from the only starter who struggled.

Evan Fournier, who along with Walker is a new addition to the team this season, also totaled two points on 1-for-5 shooting. All told, the Knicks’ first unit shot a combined 12-for-36 in the game and were benched for the entire fourth quarter after the team fell behind by 24 points.

After the game, Thibodeau bristled at the notion that his starters, with two new players, needed some time to jell.

"You know when it’s 10 games, they say it’s going to take 20," he said when asked about the starting unit coming together. "When it’s 20, you say 30. When it’s 30, you say 40. Before you know it, the season’s over. So that’s a bunch of [expletive]."

After practice on Thursday, Thibodeau said he was not considering making any changes to his starting lineup at this time. It was clear, however, that he believes the group needs to figure things out sooner rather than later.

"I see my job as telling the team the truth as I see it," Thibodeau said when asked if he was trying to send a message to the team. "And so, just looking where we are, there has to be urgency. That’s required every day. To be able to do that over the course of a season is the only way you improve. You can’t pick and choose the days you are going to work."

The Knicks (7-5) have been strangely inconsistent this season. They’ve had impressive wins in Philadelphia, Chicago and Milwaukee. The team, however, is just 2-4 at Madison Square Garden.

"It's strange from the simple fact we were a great home team last year," said Julius Randle, who was the only starter to crack double figures Wednesday. "We were OK on the road, but at home we took care of business. We got to get back to that mentality."

No one outworked the Knicks last year. As a result, they were able to turn a rebuilding year into a playoff berth. Thibodeau thinks they need to get back to that mentality.

"The most important thing is to play with an edge," he said. "There is no substitute for hustle."

New York Sports