Kemba Walker’s first impression in regular-season action in a Boston Celtics uniform left a lot to be desired.
The 6-foot point guard, who spent all eight of his previous NBA seasons with the Charlotte Hornets before signing a four-year $140.8 million contract with the Celtics at the start of free agency, struggled throughout his debut with Boston in a 107-93 road loss to the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night.
Walker never got into a rhythm or looked comfortable with his new team in the season opener, shooting a putrid 4-for-18 from the floor, scoring just 12 points and dishing out only two assists compared to turning it over three times while recording a minus-16, the worst mark of all Celtic players.
“It felt good, but just a little bit disappointing, obviously,” said Walker on suiting up for the C’s for the first time. “Tough night for many of us, but me personally, I just wish I could have done a lot more and played better for these guys.”
With Philadelphia boasting terrific length and height at nearly every position, especially in the frontcourt, driving and finishing in the paint became that much tougher for the shorter Walker and he never found his mark from long range either as the career 35.7% 3-point shooter made just 1-of-6 of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Kemba’s really lone highlight came midway through the second quarter when he unleashed a wicked crossover on rookie Matise Thybulle before converting a shot just inside the free-throw line while Thybulle fouled him.
But when the C’s needed him to assert himself in the second half with the Celtics just trailing, 49-48, at halftime, Walker disappeared with just two points over the final 24 minutes on 1-of-9 shooting.
“I thought I got my shots, the shots I love to take,” Walker said. “I thought I got to my spots. I just missed. … kind of routine shots, shots that I work on and shots that I’ve been making over the course of my career. Like I said, it’s the first one.”
It was far from Walker’s worst performance of his career. He’s right with it only being one outing and he will have plenty more opportunities going forward to showcase why the C’s coveted him this offseason.
Walker, a seasoned veteran who was named to the All-NBA Third Team a season ago, didn’t seem fazed by his lackluster start with Boston and C’s coach Brad Stevens isn’t going to change anything right away knowing the talent he has in Walker.
“I’m not worried about that,” said Stevens of Walker’s tough shooting night. “He’s a great offensive player. Some of those shots will go down and some of those things had to do with they guarded him well. We’ll just continue to ask him to be himself because he’s awfully good.”
The Celtics should expect this type of performance from Walker to happen rarely. He can create his own shot off the dribble, finish in traffic and knock down 3-pointers on a consistent basis.
There may need to be an allotted adjustment period given to Walker, though, as he gets used to a new surrounding and a younger nucleus of teammates who are still developing their games.
Kemba: "We’re still learning each other. I know we’ve been through preseason and stuff like that, but it takes time for teams to really come together and get better and be in rhythm. So, Game 1, obviously it sucks that we lost, but I think we’re still extremely confident."— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) October 24, 2019
The 60-point performance he had last year for the Hornets, oddly enough against the 76ers, or showings like that won’t come right out of the gates as he begins a new chapter of his career.
Walker’s bad performance — Jayson Tatum also had an inefficient shooting game making just 8-of-22 shots, but finished with 21 points — just so happened to come in his Celtic debut. It was good to get it out of the way first so he can perform more like he’s accustomed to going forward.
“All that means with Kemba and (Jayson) Tatum is there’s a lot of good nights coming,” Stevens said.