Kathy Willens/Associated Press
The Kemba Walker experiment in Boston seems to be coming to an end. Sources said the Boston Celtics and Walker are likely to move forward 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 middle of a potential blowup. Their season went so poorly that the organization decided to shake up the front office, the coaching staff and player personnel.
Brad Stevens stepped down as head coach, and Danny Ainge stepped down as president of basketball operations. Sources said the team will keep Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Walker will be a part of the shakeup. 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 to a surprise Miami Heat run. Despite that success, Ainge was ready to move on from Walker within the point guard’s first year.
Sources close to the Celtics revealed Ainge sought to trade Walker, and Jrue Holiday was the target. Holiday ended up 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 trade him, which created a rift in the Walker-Ainge relationship. Walker has a great relationship with his teammates and looked forward to being a veteran mentor to Tatum and Brown, but the same can’t be said about Walker and the front office. He no longer feels wanted.
One executive in the NBA said Walker isn’t the only player to have those negative feelings toward Ainge, as players around the league have not trusted Celtics management during the Ainge era. Perhaps the most telling public example of that reputation came when Anthony Davis’ father said he would never want his son to play for the Celtics after how they handled Isaiah Thomas’ injury and departure.
The NBA’s health and safety protocols and injuries made a big impact on the Celtics. Tatum had a serious case of COVID-19 that resulted in his needing an inhaler, four other players simultaneously dealt with the protocols, and Brown suffered a season-ending injury. Boston fell short of expectations as the East’s No. 7 seed.
The COVID-19 situation was so bad that by April, the Celtics had lost 131 player-days because of the health and safety protocols. The end result of the season was getting eliminated by the Brooklyn Nets in five games in the first round.
Walker had his moments last season but was not healthy during the 2020-21 season. He missed 29 games in the regular season and the final two games of the playoffs.
Even when Walker, Tatum and Brown were all on the floor, ball-stopping issues plagued the Celtics; they ranked 25th in assists per game in both 2019-20 and 2020-21. This was the type of season wherein the Celtics realized things just weren’t working.
Walker is set to earn $36 million in 2021-22, which will make a trade difficult. His contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season, during which he has a player option for $37.7 million. According to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss: “Multiple front-office sources across the NBA told The Athletic…
Read More News: Sources Say Boston Celtics and Kemba Walker Want a Breakup