Kathy Willens / Associated Press
The Kemba Walker experiment in Boston seems to be nearing completion. Sources said the Boston Celtics and Walker are likely to move on from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties.
The once promising young Celtics, who were so close to the NBA Finals, are now in the midst of a potential explosion. Their season went so badly that the organization decided to shake up the front office, the coaching staff and the player staff.
Brad Stevens resigned as head coach and Danny Ainge resigned as president of basketball operations. Sources said the team will retain Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Walker will be part of the shake-up. And the feeling is mutual between Walker and the organization.
Walker helped push the Celtics to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, but they fell short for a surprising Miami Heat race. Despite this success, Ainge was ready to move on from Walker within the point guard̵
Sources close to the Celtics revealed that Ainge was looking to trade Walker and Jrue Holiday was the target. Holiday ended with the Milwaukee Bucks, who are now in the second round of the playoffs.
A source close to Walker said he was hurt by Boston’s efforts to deal with him, which created a rift in the Walker-Ainge relationship. Walker has a good relationship with his teammates and looked forward to being a veteran mentor for Tatum and Brown, but the same cannot be said about Walker and the front office. He no longer feels wanted.
An NBA leader said Walker is not the only player who has the negative feelings towards Ainge, as players around the league do not trust the Celtics management in the Ainge era. Perhaps the most telling public example of this reputation came when Anthony Davis’ father said he would never want his son to play for the Celtics after dealing with Isaiah Thomas’ injury and departure.
The NBA’s health and safety records and injuries have had a major impact on the Celtics. Tatum had one serious case of COVID-19, which resulted in him needing an inhaler, four other players simultaneously treated the protocols, and Brown suffered a season-ending injury. Boston did not fall short of expectations as the No. 7 seed of the East.
The COVID-19 situation was so bad that in April the Celtics had lost 131 player days due to the health and safety protocols. The end result of the season was eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in five games in the first round.
Walker had his moments last season but was not healthy in the 2020-21 season. He missed 29 games in the regular season and the last two games in the playoffs.
Even when Walker, Tatum and Brown were all on the floor, Celtic problems plagued ballestop; the ranked 25th in assists per. match in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. This was the type of season where the Celtics realized things just weren’t working out.
Walker will earn $ 36 million in 2021-22, which will make a trade difficult. His contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season, with a $ 37.7 million player option. According to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss: “Several front-office sources throughout the NBA told The Athletic [last] week, they still see Walker as negative trade value if the team decides to go that route this offseason. That probably means a deal will cost the Celtics extra choice or assets to relieve, though Walker is universally admired for his relentlessly positive stance and hard work through injury. “
But sources still expect teams looking for a veteran pointpoint guard to monitor Walker. The New York Knicks, who have to make decisions about the future of free agent Derrick Rose and whether to start rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley, could be on this list. Walker said last year that the Knicks were one of his “highest priorities” when he was a free agent in 2019.
The Knicks have about $ 60 million in cap space and can take on Walker’s contract while making other free agency moves. The playoffs showed the Knicks needed another scoring opportunity in addition to Julius Randle; the team ranked last in post season points per. match and only averaged 97.0.
Another team that could easily assimilate Walker would be the Dallas Mavericks. Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly frustrated with its role and was used less and less throughout the playoffs; he had one 26.5 usage rate in the regular season and it fell to one career-low 16.2 in the playoffs.
A straight-up trade with Walker for Porzingis could give both players a fresh start and Dallas a shorter contract (Porzingis owes $ 31.7 million and $ 33.8 million over the next two seasons and has a $ 36.0 million player option 2023-24). The playoffs showed Luka Doncic needs someone else to help create so he doesn’t slow down in the fourth quarter – as he only scored 40 points in seven games on 34.9 percent shooting.
But anything is possible in the NBA – if the Philadelphia 76ers were able to clear Al Horford’s $ 27 million a year contract from their books, the Celtics would be able to clear Walker’s. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder could accept the paycheck in return for draft.
What Walker wants, a source close to his camp said, is that it is a winning situation. This does not necessarily mean a championship-or-bust team like the Nets or Los Angeles Lakers, but one where Walker could positively impact its ability to win. Contributing to a younger team’s potential playoff success, such as the Mavericks ‘or Knicks’, could fulfill this desire.
Where Walker lands could depend on what happens to free agents of starting caliber, including Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schroder and Mike Conley. Teams with capacity are expected to do their due diligence to these players before handing over valuable assets to land a person like Walker.
Let the musical chairs begin.
Adam Borai contributed to this report.