Kemba Walker, formerly of the Charlotte Hornets, has agreed to become the third Boston Celtics point guard in four seasons, signing a four-year deal worth $141 million,
After spending eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker has made it clear that following an All-NBA, career season- he’s ready to compete and contend. Let’s also acknowledge the fact that this very signing in itself throws away all outsider notions that claim the Boston Celtics would be “unable” or “incapable” of land big-name, All-Star level talent via free agency due to the departure of Kyrie Irving. Kemba Walker is now the third big-name free agent to willingly sign with the Celtics, out of his own volition, out of the past four seasons.
Think about that for a minute. Kemba Walker didn’t even give his free agency tenure enough time for teams such as the Lakers and/or Mavericks who were also reportedly in the run, to even meet with him. Walker had his mind set and done. He wasn’t persuaded by the glamor of playing alongside Anthony Davis and LeBron James in Los Angeles. Nor was he in on the youth movement featured in Dallas with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. Heck, it didn’t even take a Tom Brady, Larry Bird, and Kelly Olynyk meeting in the Hamptons. Guess what? Walker was genuinely interested in being a Boston Celtic. Surprise, surprise. All he needed was for the market to officially open so that he himself could put the pen-to-paper and sign.
To not only inform the Hornets that you won’t return, but a day prior to free agency, commit to signing with the Celtics, contradicts those very notions. Boston remains an attraction to free agents despite the fact that Kyrie Irving or Al Horford wants out. Now those two departures are due to extremely different circumstances with Horford being financially motivated and Irving simply being Irving. Nevertheless, Brad Stevens and the 2019-20 Boston Celtics have their point guard.
Just a week prior to the opening of free agency, the Boston Celtics were inching closer and closer by the tweets, until being crowned favorites to land Walker in the market. What better way to overcome losing an All-Star caliber, All-NBA point guard? Easy. Sign an All-Star caliber, All-NBA point guard. Duh.
Well, that’s exactly what Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics front office just did, evidently landing Kemba Walker for the same deal that would’ve retained Kyrie Irving, helping the Celtics and their fans recover quickly from the Kyrie-Boston breakup.
Last season Kemba Walker played in 82 games last season for the Hornets, tying a career-high. In fact, to backtrack even further, speaking on Walker’s great consistency in remaining healthy, he’s played in 79 games on average in the past four seasons. Most recently in 2018-19 Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points with 4.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He shot 43.4 percent from the field, 35.6 from three, and 84.4 from the line. However let’s consider the fact that Walker was dealt with a fairly underwhelming set of cards, leading a Hornets offense that shot 46 percent from the field, which was 26th in all of basketball last season. So… why wouldn’t he be taking the majority of the shots and by far?
At 29-years-old it made absolutely no sense whatsoever for Kemba Walker to return to the Charlotte Hornets, a relationship that needed to end for the sake of both sides.
Consider the fact that notching a spot on the 2018-19 All-NBA team made Walker eligible for a five-year, $221 million super-max deal. The only factor whatsoever that would make sense for Walker to remain a Hornet. However from Charlotte’s perspective… why? What sense would it make for Michael Jordan and Mitch Kupchak to make Walker the highest paid player in basketball? Essentially the Hornets would be pulling a Memphis Grizzlies when back in 2016 they signed former point guard Mike Conley to a $153 million max deal, making him the highest paid NBA player at the time. Keeping Walker tied down for five more seasons with an organization that’s expressed no sign of urgency whatsoever to contend at any point in the future.
Perhaps it would’ve been a significantly wiser move for Charlotte to have dealt Walker within the past two seasons, knowing A: the Hornets were not going to be in any position to contend anytime soon, and B: Kemba Walker would be on the hunt for a pay-day. Win for Kemba. A loss for MJ.
While many factors came into play during last seasons unwatchable 82 Celtics games. Kemba did himself a favor helping exploit the very chemistry flaws that embodied what the 2018-19 C’s were all about.
On March 23, the Celtics (per usual) coughed up a major double-digit lead. Up 18 points in the fourth quarter against the Hornets, it was Walker himself who put Charlotte on his back in a 124-117 win. Kemba scored 18 of his 36 points that night in the fourth quarter alone. A Celtics loss that did more internal damage then we may have thought- for after the game, Kyrie Irving used the blown 18-point-lead loss as an opportunity to blame head coach Brad Stevens.
At least Kyrie was right about that. Kemba Walker indeed “torched” the Boston Celtics in each of his three meetings, averaging 30.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.0 assists on 49.4/43.9/95.0 shooting. Fair to say Kemba did his part in getting himself to Boston, even from Charlotte.
Maybe, Kemba Walker, is the very personality needed in a Boston Celtics locker-room come 2019-20 in which the C’s will need to bounce back from an extremely hard-watch of a year that the Garden faithful endured. Walker spent nearly a decade playing for an organization that still hasn’t won a single playoff series in 17 years. Yet Walker still called remaining a Hornet his “first priority”, perhaps restructuring and willingly declining to take a $221 million super-max deal he was set to earn.
Thankfully for Boston, Walker elected to an alternative route, taking even less to play alongside an upgraded roster featuring Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Gordon Hayward.
While, Kemba Walker, isn’t the flashy, elite ball-handling finisher that Kyrie Irving was, a little less post-game media drama, and locker room distraction is certainly an upside/ win for the Celtics. Irving, 27, has shown a blatant inability to mesh on and off the floor with a young crew. Berserk to imagine when we’re talking about a guy who isn’t even 30 years old yet! However, he’s somehow embedded this false persona, ego-driven, which completely overtook both the way he carried himself amongst teammates and completely imploded the season’s entirety.
The very reason why Celtics fans are viewing the Al Horford departure as a bigger loss than Kyrie Irving. Uncle Drew has now become the biggest sports star to leave Boston with no one in Boston caring since Jacoby Ellsbury signed a mega seven-year deal with Yankees following the 2013 Red Sox World Series win.
Isaiah Thomas wasn’t nearly as flashy as Irving nor was Terry Rozier. Yet those two took Boston significantly further than Irving ever could in the starting point guard role. Call it whatever you want, this was perhaps the quickest bounce-back rebuild ever in recent memory
Game five of round two against the Milwaukee Bucks in itself exploits the very reason by Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics weren’t going to work. Irving has been to the Finals. He’s 27 years old and already has had a taste of the glory, oppose to Kemba Walker who’s 29 and hasn’t won a single playoff series. That plays a role in the effort that one guy brings to the table versus the other.
Alas, here we are. Kemba’s got the best shot he’s ever had in his career.
With that being said: Welcome, Kemba Walker!