Following a recent report that suggested former Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and Kemba Walker maintained a “tension-filled” relationship throughout 2020-21, Stevens, who is now the team’s president of basketball operations, opened up about his two-year stint with the four-time All-Star guard.
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According to The Athletic’s Jared Weiss, per team sources, the Celtics’ coach-turned-president and Walker’s relationship soured, last season.
“Several team sources felt Stevens was more aggressive with certain players this season, which included Walker who was criticized for his defensive mistakes,” Weiss wrote. “Those sources said Walker and Stevens began to butt heads, though the pair were considered to have a productive working relationship and mutual respect for one another.”
Brad Stevens On Trading Kemba Walker: ‘This Was Not The Ideal’
During Monday’s press conference, Stevens, who wasn’t asked about the specific report, Monday, shared just how difficult trading Walker was, for him.
“This was really hard,” Stevens admitted during his press conference from the Auerbach Center. “This was not the ideal first few weeks on the job move. Just because of the kind of person that Kemba is. And the kind of professional he is, and how good of a player he is and continues to be.
“A lot of hard calls but that part with this year’s pick versus maybe future first-round picks — yeah, that was a big driver in making this decision.”
Brad Stevens On Coaching Kemba Walker: ‘I Have Nothing But Great Things to Say About Him’
Still, for Stevens, it didn’t make pulling the trigger on sending Walker along with the no. 16 pick in this year’s draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a future second-round pick, any easier.
“I coached him for two years, I have nothing but great things to say about him,” Stevens said. “(He’s) a really good teammate, really good player; really good person. Easy to be around every day. That’s what made it the most difficult part of it, obviously.”
It’s having to make these types of difficult decisions, Stevens points out, that’s making the transition from Celtics head coach to the president of basketball operations, a true learning experience, for Brad.
“I think that’s part of my job change, right? It is difficult,” Stevens said. “For instance, I just really like Kemba. Period. End of story. He is a super likable person. Again, the deal was made and I’m sure it’s been talked about on the outside. There’s a couple of things, right?
“We had to look at, the idea of moving that first-round pick for this year, and it gave us the opportunity to look at a road ahead with a few more options from the financial flexibility standpoint.”
Brad Stevens On Trading for Al Horford: ‘It Was The Best Deal’
For Stevens, the returning offer from the Thunder, including bringing Horford back into the fold, was too tempting to pass up.
“It was the best deal that, we thought, with regard to returning players,” Stevens added. “The opportunity to add Al (Horford), who makes significantly less money but (is) a really good player that has corporate knowledge of this environment that is really excited to be back in Boston.
And (he) has a good feel for, not only playing with our guys but has also made them better.”