Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks reacts during the...

Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks reacts during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on November 30, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Michelle Farsi

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — This hasn’t been easy for Kemba Walker.

Walker, who was brought in this summer to be the Knicks' starting point guard, told reporters on Monday that he was blindsided by coach Tom Thibodeau’s decision a week ago to demote him out of the rotation.

"It was tough, obviously, because as a competitor, I love to play basketball," Walker said in his first media appearance since the demotion. "I love being on the court. This is the first time this has happened to me in my career, pretty much on any level.

"But at the end of the day, I have respect for coach Thibs and the decision he made. It might not have been an easy one, but it was a choice he made. I have no choice but to live with it."

Thibodeau announced last Monday that Alec Burks would take over as starting point guard and Walker would go to the bench and be out of the Knicks' rotation. Burks had also started the game before in a win over Atlanta. Since Thibodeau made the move, the Knicks are 0-3. After playing well in losses to the Nets and Chicago, the Knicks were blown out at home by a shorthanded Denver team on Saturday.

Thibodeau is still searching for answers and on Monday he was asked if he was considering lineup changes for Tuesday night's game in San Antonio.

"We could," Thibodeau said. "I’m still mulling it over."

Walker thought he had found a new home when he signed a two-year, $18 million contract with the Knicks this summer. On Monday, he was noncommittal on if he would be willing to come off the bench in New York or would look to go to another team where he could get more playing time.

"I’m not sure. We’ll see," Walker said. "I don’t know."

For now, the 31-year-old Bronx native has decided to do what he can to support his teammates. He is keeping himself in shape in case he is called upon, and he is trying to view what has happened as an opportunity for growth. He said he has leaned on both his family and his faith to get through this past week.

"Things like this just build character," he said. "Situations like this show people who you really are. I am who I am. I’m going to smile through all situations. I’m going to be myself through all situations. I’m not going to let anything break me or bring me down. I have a great support system."

So, for now, Walker will continue to cheer on his teammates from the bench.

"I could be [angry]. I could be upset," Walker said. "But at the end of the day, there’s some young guys here who look up to me. I’m pretty sure they wanted to see how I reacted to the situation. Anybody on my team down the line can be in the same situation. Maybe I can be a role model in that aspect. It was tough, but at the end of the day, it’s just not about me."