The Knicks’ season begins in just more than a month. We couldn’t possibly be more excited — finally, a Knicks team with barely an Isiah Thomas fingerprint on it! — so, until the season starts, we’ll be counting down the eleven most important Knicks twice a week until opening night on October 27. The best sign we can give you: Eddy Curry isn’t among the eleven. Today: Swingman Bill Walker.
When the Celtics traded Bill Walker to the Knicks in the Nate Robinson trade, the former Kansas State Wildcat — most famous for urinating in a towel courtside — must have been pretty bored. He had played only eight games for the Celtics all season, 29 minutes, and hadn’t even put up a three-pointer. In 27 games the rest of the way for the Knicks, thirteen of which he started, he put up 116 three-pointers, making 50 of them for an impressive 43 percent. The year before, when he played 29 games, he put up only one three-pointer, making one wonder if the Celtics required him to play while wearing a suit of armor, or maybe a body cast.
Walker was one of the few highlights of the last third of the season, and it even inspired Basketball Prospectus to project him to have a better season than Wilson Chandler or Toney Douglas. Walker, who had been known in high school and college for his athleticism and his jumping ability rather than his jump shot (along with his childhood friendship with O.J. Mayo), finally enjoyed some playing time, and took full advantage of it. A 43 percent three-point shooter sitting out on the wings on the fast break? Yes, please.
But let us not get carried away. (Note: During this “Better Know a Knick” series, we will often be getting carried away.) Walker played junk time last season in games that didn’t matter, for a team (and against teams) that were playing out the strings. Walker knew he had two months to make a name for himself, and he did. But garbage time is over. If you’re looking for a sign that the Knicks aren’t entirely sold on Walker, note that they did sign Roger Mason Jr. and trade for Kelenna Azubuike in the off-season, two guys whose presence could render Walker’s presence redundant.
Which means he’ll have to fight for relevance again. He certainly took his off-season seriously, dropping more than 25 pounds and looking faster and more fit in the Vegas Summer League. He won’t play this season nearly as much as he did the final two months of the 2009-10 season, but it would be a surprise not to see him on the opening-night roster. Considering where he was at this point last year, that’s a significant triumph. Still: He’ll probably end up going down in history for the towel urination anyway.