The Dallas Mavericks waived guard Kemba Walker, the team announced Friday morning. Dallas now has one open roster spot and a path for its younger guards to get more playing time.
Walker signed with Dallas on Nov. 29 and appeared in nine games with the Mavericks, averaging 8.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on 42.1 percent shooting overall and 25 percent from three. According to reports, the move is happening because Walker’s contract is guaranteed tomorrow and the team would rather give more playing time to young guards McKinley Wright and Jaden Hardy.
There’s also the concern about Walker’s knee, which Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison said “it’s not good” in a radio interview before Walker’s first game in a Dallas uniform. Walker played in back-to-back games on Dec. 16 and 17, with 13 minutes against Portland and then a massive 42 minutes on the next night against Cleveland. Walker was spectacular in that game, scoring 32 points and almost leading a short-handed, Luka-less Mavericks team to an upset win. But that minutes load clearly had a cost.
Walker played the next two games, but only went 5-of-15 from the field, scoring a combined 18 points in 44 minutes. After that, he sat out almost a week and has played sparingly since. Obviously Walker’s knee just couldn’t hold up.
In the interim, Wright and Hardy have shown some flashes. Wright isn’t an offensive player, but has shown some decent floor awareness and defensive smarts. Hardy scored 15 points in 15 minutes against the Boston Celtics on Thursday, although all of his minutes came when the game was already decided. Still, it was a good performance as the Celtics still had their regular rotation players on the floor.
It’s obvious that despite offering veteran guard Goran Dragic what he described as a “cheerleading” role this past offseason, the Mavericks do need someone to consistently play backup guard minutes behind Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie. While signing and waiving a well-liked player like Walker in such a short time period isn’t ideal, especially when his injury concerns were so obvious, at least the Mavericks are leaning toward their youth, something the fan base has wanted for quite a long time. We’ll see if Dallas converts Wright’s two-way deal to a full contract to use up the last roster spot, or if they keep it open to be more flexible around the trade deadline.