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NEW YORK, October 16, 2021 – The New York Knicks announced today that the team has waived guard Brandon Knight, forward Aamir Simms and guard M.J. Walker.

Simms, 6-8, 245-pounds, appeared in two preseason games and averaged two points and 2.5 rebounds over 6.8 minutes.

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The Palmyra, VA-native, played four seasons at Clemson University (2017-21) recording 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists over 25.3 minutes in 122 games (100 starts). During his senior season, Simms was named to the 2020-21 All-ACC Second Team after producing a career best 13.4 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists over 29.7 minutes in 24 games (all starts). He originally signed with the Knicks on August 18.

Walker, 6-5, 213-pounds, appeared in three games for the Knicks 2021 Summer League entry in Las Vegas, NV. He averaged 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds over 16.1 minutes. He did not appear in any preseason games after signing with the Knicks on August 20.

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The Jonesboro, GA-native, played four seasons at Florida State University (2017-21) recording 9.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists over 24.3 minutes in 120 games (82 starts). During his senior season, Walker was named to the 2020-21 All-ACC Second Team after producing a career best 12.2 points to go along with 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists over 29.0 minutes in 24 games (23 starts).

The roster now stands at 16 players, including one Two-Way player.

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So often, they feel compelled to say what they say, as if they understand that there’s a required reverence for walking through the doors at Madison Square Garden, a necessary toll for stepping onto the floor. It’s still nice to hear, sure. It props up New York’s chronic basketball defeatism to hear stars prayerfully pay tribute to “The Mecca” and “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

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But we know they don’t really know. Because most of them, they can’t really know. They only know what they’re told. They only know what they’ve read about.

Kemba Walker, he knows.

Kemba understands the Garden. He understands what the Knicks mean to basketball New York, and especially what a good Knicks team means to the city. But even more than the team, there is the arena. There is the Garden.

“This,” Walker said Tuesday, “is a dream come true.”

The Garden was always a magnet for him, all the way back to The Bronx, Intermediate School 174, to the Sack-Wern Houses in Soundview and to the New York Gauchos, later across the river at Rice High. The Garden was where he found his star one forever week in 2011, when as a Connecticut Husky he engineered five wins in five nights over DePaul, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville.

And the Garden is home now, more home for Walker because New York is home for him, because the Garden isn’t just a famous name or a page out of a history book the way it is for so many other stars who genuflect reflexively in its shadow.

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg
“I’m in a Knicks uniform now,” Walker said. “That makes it 10 times more special.”

Said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau: “Kemba has played so many games in the Garden, he knows what the Garden means, and what the Knicks mean to the city.”

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Opening night Wednesday will be all about Walker in so many ways. He was one of the Knicks’ prime offseason additions (along with Evan Fournier) so that would make him a subject of intrigue anyway. And the opponent will be the Celtics, the team that traded him away after an injury-plagued 2020-21 season, a team the Knicks figure to jostle with all year for position in the Eastern Conference.

And, of course, he is home, maybe 10 miles south as the crow flies from Lafayette Avenue, where his signature is scrawled on the floor of the outdoor basketball court at Sack-Wern. The Knicks are hoping Walker can add his name to the shifting culture they are trying to build, one that yielded a 41-31 record and caught the attention of a lot of interested parties across the league.

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“Playing against these guys last year, watching them, how hard they played and the great success they had was great,” Walker said. “These guys get along very well, and I hope I can come in and add to that.”

Walker’s chief challenge will be staying on the court, because for all the excitement his presence will generate, he is 10 years removed from that electric senior year at UConn, which culminated with a national title three weeks after his storybook run at the Garden.

Kemba Walker (right) and Julius Randle
Kemba Walker (right) and Julius Randle
NBAE via Getty Images
He missed 29 games last season, and while he was an All-Star as recently as two years ago (his fourth straight nod), one of the reasons the Celtics were willing to part with him — dumping him to Oklahoma City last June so the Thunder could buy him out and waive him — was because they believed too much of the tread had already been frayed off his radials.

It will require some delicate management. It will mean he only plays half of a bunch of back-to-backs this year, and will force Thibodeau to think twice about loading up Walker’s minutes during the regular season, regardless of how well he’s playing. But Walker has a huge believer in Thibodeau, and that’s a good place to start.

The coach didn’t know Walker well before they began working together but Thibodeau is friends with coaches who’ve worked with him, and he got to know him a little when he was touring team training camps between jobs. He said the praise he’d hear about Walker was effusive and universal.

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“You think, ‘They can’t all be true,’ ” Thibodeau said of the glowing reviews, laughing. “Then you’re around him and, yeah, they’re all true.”

Julius Randle, listening to Walker talk about his homecoming on the other side of the press-room door Tuesday, entered the room, smiled, said: “He’s home! What more do you all want to know?”

And then added his endorsement for his brand-new wing man.

“It’s fun,” Randle said. “He’s a great leader, he’s great in the locker room and he’ll make the game easier for a lot of us.”

If that happens? You can only imagine what the Garden will sound like. Kemba Walker knows. He’s only been dreaming about that sound his whole life.

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There is a belief among some NBA media members that Jericho Sims could be the heir apparent to the starting center position for the New York Knicks due to the uncertain future of Mitchell Robinson. Marc Berman of the New York Post stated on August 5th that Sims could take over as starting center if Robinson gets injured or gets traded at some point next season.

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However, Sims doesn’t have the skill set required to be the starting center for the Knicks. Sims is a player who excels close to the basket as he shot 76.6 percent in the restricted area in four seasons at the University of Texas, on 1.4 shots per game.

Sims averaged 1.1 points per game in the restricted area: 16.7 percent of his total offensive production. Unfortunately, there are only two ways that New York Knicks’ big men get to the basket: by cutting or being a roll man.

Mitchell Robinson spent 26.8 percent of his possessions as a cutter, averaging 1.9 possessions per game. He shot 76 percent from the field on 1.6 shots. He averaged 2.6 points per game as a cutter last season.

Robinson supplemented his time by being a roll man as he spent over 22.8 percent of the time in the role, averaging 1.6 possessions per game. Robinson was able to excel in the role as he shot 74.4 percent from the field on 1.4 shots per game, generating 2.3 points.

Let’s take a look at why the New York Knicks drafted Jericho Sims at the wrong time due to the skill set of their best player Julius Randle.
However, the presence of Mitchell Robinson puts the team’s best player in a position to struggle, as Julius Randle spent a significant portion of his minutes standing behind the arc. For example, Randle stood on the right wing as RJ Barrett had the ball right next to him, waiting for Robinson to come up and start a pick and roll.

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Barrett held the ball until Robinson came up to set the screen. Barrett went over the screen, intending to attack the basket. Unfortunately, two Wizards players surrounded him, leading to Barrett throwing a lob pass to Robinson for a dunk.

Randle averaged a career-high in spot-up possessions and 3-point attempts, averaging 5 and 5.5, respectively. Sadly, Randle hasn’t been able to thrive in this area of his game, as he has shot below 40 percent on spot-up attempts since 2015 on 2.5 shots per game. He performed even worse from the 3-point shooting department, making 34.2 percent of his attempts on 2.2 shots per game.

Randle’s struggles from behind the arc contributed to the team performing badly on the floor with Mitchell Robinson. The team shot 44.9 percent from the field on 44.8 shots per game. They averaged 52.6 points per game, but that production wasn’t enough, as they got outscored by 0.1 points in 24.8 minutes per game.

The team did much better when they had Randle on the floor as the lone big man because Randle is a much more consistent player below the 3-point line. Randle has shot above 50 percent below the 3-point line on over 11 attempts per game since 2015. The field goal percentage helped him generate 11.6 points per game, 66.7 percent of his scoring output.

Randle’s increased consistency inside the arc led the team to perform better when he was on the floor with a wing, like Derrick Rose. The team shot 46.2 percent from the field when he was on the floor with Derrick Rose, on 30.7 shots per game. The team averaged 39.4 points and outscored opponents by 3 points per game when Randle and Rose were on the floor together for 17.4 minutes.

Therefore, Sims can’t be looked at as the center of the future, at the current moment, because of the presence of Julius Randle.