After two seasons, it looks like Kemba Walker’s time with the Celtics is coming to an end.
Farbod Esnaashari of Bleacher Report reports that Walker and Boston “are likely to move forward from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties.”
News of this potential parting comes just two years after Walker elected to join the Celtics in free agency. He came to the Celtics via a sign-and-trade that sent Terry Rozier to Walker’s former team, the Hornets, and was supposed to help Boston take the next step toward being a contender.
However, things didn’t go as planned.
Walker did help the Celtics reach Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2020 season. But his second season didn’t go as well. Walker missed a career-high 31 games, including during the playoffs, and averaged 19.3 points per game on 42 percent shooting in the regular season. Those were his lowest marks since his fourth season in 2014-15.
As Walker struggled, the Celtics did too. They couldn’t stay healthy, as injuries and COVID ravaged the squad, and they ended the year with a 36-36 record as the seventh seed in the playoffs. After winning the NBA’s play-in tournament, the Celtics lost their opening series 4-1 at the hands of the Nets, a series during which Walker missed the final two games.
That prompted major changes in their organization. GM Danny Ainge retired and coach Brad Stevens took over the front office job from him.
Of course, one of those changes could have theoretically helped the relationship between Walker and Boston.
Apparently, Walker didn’t have the best bond with Ainge. Esnaashari reports that Ainge tried to trade Walker in a deal to land Jrue Holiday, and after that Walker’s relationship was strained.
A source close to Walker said he was hurt by Boston’s efforts to trade him, which created a rift in the Walker-Ainge relationship.
So now, Walker will likely look for work elsewhere and the Celtics will try to trade him. Walker is set to make $36 million next year with a $37 million player option for 2022-23, so it won’t be easy to trade the veteran, but there will still be some point guard-needy teams interested in his services.
As for Walker, he’ll just want a situation where he has a chance to win. That’s what he came to do in Boston. It just didn’t happen.
The injury concerns may not make Walker the player he once was, but he will still be one of the bigger names on the trade market this summer. So, as the offseason progresses, Walker’s status will be worth watching.