Former Celtic Faces Uncertain NBA Future

Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

Getty Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

When the Boston Celtics acquired Kemba Walker as a direct replacement for Kyrie Irving, fans rejoiced at a successful pivot from Danny Ainge.

However, despite a solid start to his Celtics tenure, Walker’s spell in Boston began to nosedive – courtesy of knee issues which sapped him of his explosive first step. Walker, 32, spent two seasons with the Celtics, averaging 19.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 37.2% from deep and 48% from inside the perimeter. 

Yet, if you look beyond his averages, you will see Walker struggled for fitness during those two seasons, with the veteran guard participating in 56 regular season games during his first year with the team, and then 43 the following season. As such, it came as no surprise when Walker was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the deal to bring Al Horford back to Boston – before his contract was bought out and he joined the New York Knicks.

Unfortunately, just a year later, Walker finds himself in the exact same situation – having been traded to the Detroit Pistons, who are reportedly working with the Bronx native on a buy-out. However, it doesn’t seem like those buy-out discussions are going according to plan.

In his September 7 article, The Athletics James L. Edwards III detailed what seems to be holding up Walker’s return to the free-agent market.

“Per sources, the Pistons and Walker had agreed on a number, which was a few million less than what he’s owed. However, and this is just an *educated hunch,* Walker has yet to officially agree to the terms of the buyout because, well, a player usually takes a buyout when he’s sure that he can sign with another team…To sum it all up in one sentence, it feels like Walker doesn’t have another team lined up right now and there is no point in taking less money until he does,” Edwards wrote.


New York Benched Kemba

Last summer, the Knicks were looking to add scoring to their roster following an impressive return to the post-season based upon a stern defensive unit. Once the free agency period rolled around, New York signed Evan Fournier in a sign-and-trade deal with the Celtics and captured Walker’s signature once he became a free agent.

Yet, once the season was in full swing, it quickly became apparent that Walker wasn’t the player New York needed, as his lack of explosiveness, and high usage rate began to impact his other teammates. Eventually, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau had to make the difficult decision of benching Walker, as he searched for a winning formula with.

“I view Kemba as a starter, and so it’d be tough to play three small guards together. I gave it consideration, and I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person and all he’s accomplished in this league. But I have to do what I think is best for the team,” head coach Tom Thibodeau told the New York Post at the time.

Walker did eventually return to the Knicks rotation but struggled to show the form that once made him one of the most fearsome guards in the NBA.


No Road Back to Boston

Whenever a former Celtic becomes a free agent, there’s always a nostalgic contingent of the fanbase that begins to champion for the player to return to the TD Garden. However, following Boston’s addition of Malcolm Brogdon this summer, the team’s guard rotation is already over-saturated.

Right now, Payton Pritchard must be wondering where his minutes are going to come from, and how he could force Ime Udoka’s hand to crack the rotation full-time. So, with so many guards already under contract, it’s almost impossible to imagine Walker finding his way back to Boston should his buyout from Detroit finally get over the line.


VideoVideo related to former celtic faces uncertain nba future2022-09-11T12:36:02-04:00

Still, there should be a couple of teams around the NBA that feel they can get solid production out of the veteran guard  – assuming that he’s willing to embrace a bench role, which at this late juncture of his career, might be his best bet.

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