Now it’s official, official.
Kemba Walker, the Bronx native who played high school ball at Rice in Harlem, is coming home to run the point for the Knicks.
“We are beyond thrilled to bring native New Yorker Kemba Walker back to the city he’s proud to call home,” Knicks president Leon Rose said in a statement Wednesday. “He’s a tremendous talent whose skill and leadership will be a huge addition to our organization.
“We’ve already seen how well he performs on The Garden stage and can’t wait to witness it on a nightly basis in front of his family, friends and the best fans in the league.”
Even if it is a fallback option, due to Walker’s recent injury history, the addition could turn into a storybook signing for the franchise should the 31-year-old free agent pan out and lead the Knicks to a second straight playoff berth.
Walker, a four-time All-Star, regressed last season because of an arthritic left knee that needed stem-cell injections before the season. He was only able to play 43 games for Boston and struggled while playing in just three of the five playoff games against the Nets. Walker averaged 19.3 points last season and 4.9 assists but his shooting percentage dropped to 42 percent.
In a surprising twist, the Celtics replaced Walker by adding veteran point guard Dennis Schroder on a one-year, $6 million deal on Tuesday.
The Knicks finished last season fourth place in the conference with a 41-31 record, but several Eastern Conference teams behind them have improved – most notably Miami, Chicago, Charlotte and Washington.
The Knicks feel they have, too, with an upgrade at shooting guard of Evan Fournier over departed Reggie Bullock and Walker over point guard Elfrid Payton, who signed with the NBA finalist Phoenix Suns.
A source confirmed Walker gave up about $20.5M in a buyout with Oklahoma City to become a free agent and sign with the Knicks, who had $8 million of cap space left.
“Offseason moves were great. We added a guy Kemba Walker who can do it all, somebody I can learn from, compete with to expand my game,’’ guard Immanuel Quickley said after Monday’s summer-league game. “I want to be where he is eventually one day.
“So no better guy than Kemba Walker to come in – just like I learned from Derrick Rose, I can learn from somebody else. And Evan Fournier, competitor, shooter – so we added shooting and defense. I think we made great moves this offseason.”