The Dallas Mavericks recently signed veteran and former All-Star guard Kemba Walker to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal with the hope that he can provide at least a small bit of additional playmaking for a team that plays like the worst offense in the league when Luka Doncic sits and is really missing Jalen Brunson.
But first, Walker, 32, has to be healthy enough to contribute. HIs left knee has required three surgeries, two on his meniscus and another an arthroscopic procedure in 2017. He wasn't the same player toward the end of his Celtics run, and after a promising start with the Knicks, he declined even more before he was cut from the rotation and dumped to Detroit in a cost-cutting move. He hasn't played an NBA game since February.
"It's not good," Mavericks GM Nico Harrison said of Walker's knee during a recent radio appearance. "It's not good at all. But he's rehabbed it and it's the best he's felt in the last two years so, we'll see how long that lasts."
If you're thinking that doesn't sound like a terribly optimistic outlook, you'd be right. Harrison followed up by saying: "Well, it hasn't been good for a few years. [But] even last year, he had 30 point games on it. But it actually feels better now. The reality is, if you look at it, it's not good, but that doesn't mean he can't play on it."
That's the key. Walker isn't going to be anything close to his peak self. He might not even play that much. But he averaged over 19 points per game two years ago and had a 44-point performance and six 20-point outings in 37 games with the Knicks last season. Harrison and the Mavericks, who are entirely devoid of playmakers behind Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie, are making a small bet that Walker can conjure up some semblance of that production, if only in spots, in spite of his knee issues.
If I were a Mavs fan, I wouldn't hold my breath. This is a long shot. Harrison is basically admitting as much. But it's worth a try on a small deal, if only for Walker's locker room presence.