Kemba Walker Breaks Silence on Celtics Divorce

Kemba Walker breaks silence on Celtics Exit

Getty Kemba Walker #8 of the New York Knicks during a press conference at Madison Square Garden.

After an injury-plagued season, mounds of trade speculation and a whirlwind offseason that saw him switch cities not once, but twice, New York’s prodigal son has returned.

The New York Knicks introduced Kemba Walker to the media on Wednesday in an introductory press conference alongside another former Celtic-turned-Knick, Evan Fournier. Walker, the team’s new starting point guard, returns home after two fairly productive, yet highly criticized seasons in Boston.

“Perfect timing. Really motivated. Super excited that these guys have belief in me,” Walker said of joining the Knicks, via MSG. “That’s all I need. I just need somebody to believe in me. These guys do, and I appreciate that.”

As for if the Celtics believed in him, Walker noted, “I definitely felt like Boston believed in me,” before shedding a grin and a slight shoulder roll, adding “but they traded me. But, yeah, that’s not the case. I don’t feel like they didn’t believe in me.”

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Juggling Injuries & Salary vs. Production

In 99 games of donning the green and white, the UConn product averaged 19.9 points and 4.8 assists — even being named an Eastern Conference All-Star in the midst. However, it wasn’t enough for the Celtics to commit to Walker as their lead guard for the long haul. In Brad Stevens’ first noteworthy move as President of Basketball Operations, the Cs shipped Walker and his nearly $74 million contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder in June.

“I just really liked Kemba,” Stevens told reporters in his first media appearance after dealing Walker, via Boston.com. “Period, end of story. He is a super-likable person.” Having said that, no level of likeability on Walker’s end could pivot the Celtics’ desire to move off the 31-year-old’s contract, which had developed into a financial burden over his final months in Beantown.

Walker did show glimpses of his pre-injury form during the latter end of the regular season, scoring 29-plus points in four of his final games. However, his persistent knee issues rearose during the postseason, cutting his series short after three extremely rocky performances.

Now in New York, the biggest question is whether his murky left knee will hold up to the daily rigors of an 82-game schedule. Walker didn’t participate in back-to-back games during his final season in Boston and while his Knicks introductory conference was full of optimism and laughter, neither Walker nor the organization exactly dispelled those concerns.


The Post Kemba Era in Boston

After a short stint in OKC, Walker was bought out of his deal, paving the way for Walker to join the Knicks on a two-year, $18 million contract. As for the Celtics, the team avoided making any true splash moves in free agency to replace the departed four-time All-Star.

They did add a potential steal in Dennis Schroder on an extremely team-friendly $5.9 million deal. Although there’s a high probability that he’ll be nothing more than a one-year rental when all is said and done. Instead, the Celtics chose to use their money to keep their own, re-upping Marcus Smart on a massive four-year $77 million extension this past weekend.

Smart, 27, is coming off a career season as a distributor, averaging 5.7 assists per game. Now with Walker out of the picture, the Celtics look destined to hand the keys to their backcourt over to the defensive-minded point guard.

“Put the ball in Marcus’ hands a lot more, he’s kind of asked for that,” coach Ime Udoka said at Summer League, via Mass Live. “I think he’ll be a great facilitator as well.”

On top of Smart and Schroder, the Celtics also have second-year pro Payton Pritchard who has enjoyed quite the headline-grabbing summer spanning across his play in Las Vegas as well as the Pro-Am circuit. There’s also the possible addition of stashed guard Yam Madar to the roster, although he’s likely more of a long-term play.

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