The offseason may be extremely young, yet the Boston Celtics have already endured quite the shakeup — and chances are they’re far from done. Following a first-round playoff exit, head coach Brad Stevens forfeited his coaching duties to take over for the retired Danny Ainge as the team’s president of basketball operations. Many expect Stevens to shake up a roster that finished the regular season as the seventh-seed in the Eastern Conference with a mere .500-record. The likely preferred first domino to fall would be moving on from former four-time All-Star Kemba Walker — a scenario that Walker would seemingly welcome.
According to Bleacher Report’s Farbod Esnaashari, the Celtics and their 31-year-old point guard are “likely to move forward from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties.”
It feels just like yesterday Walker was perceived as a franchise cornerstone for the Celtics. Brought over in 2019 on a sign and trade deal from Charlotte worth $141 million, the Bronx native was perceived to be the final piece in Boston’s “big-three” alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, injuries, a budding salary and growing disdain appear to have led to a likely divorce between the Celtics and their starting point guard.
“Sources said the team will keep Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Walker will be a part of the shakeup,” Esnaashari wrote. “And the feeling is mutual between Walker and the organization.”
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Walker ‘No Longer Feels Wanted’
It’s fair to say that Walker gave the Celtics their money’s worth during his first season in Boston. He put up a highly productive 2019-20 campaign, averaging 20.4 points and 4.8 assists per game. His efforts earned him his fourth-consecutive All-Star nod and helped guide the Celtics to an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Yet, despite his strong showing, Ainge and company were apparently ready to cut ties with Walker within his inaugural season with the team. Sources close to the Celtics informed Esnaashari that Ainge sought to trade Walker, eyeing Jrue Holiday as compensation. The NBA insider notes that the organization’s failed efforts to trade Walker has left a lasting rift between the two sides.
“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,” Esnaashari reported. “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.”
Can Celtics Work Things Out With Walker?
Walker’s second season with the Celtics certainly endured its fair share of rough patches. We’d be remiss not to highlight his stellar close out to the regular season where he scored 29-plus points in four of his final five games. With that said, his 2020-21 season can mostly be summed up as injury-riddled, ultimately being capped off by a disappointing playoff showing. In three games vs. Brooklyn, Walker shot just 31.7% from the field and 17.6% from 3-point range, eventually being shut down for the series.
With all that said, despite his limitations, Walker still remains a viable starting point guard in the league. To believe you will receive feasible compensation for him on the trade market is unlikely, considering his near $74 million price tag through 2023. Then again, maybe the changes within the front office and coaching staff could help ease the tension between Walker and the Celtics. Yet, if the relationship is too far withered, Boston may be left with no choice but to cut their losses.