Star point guard Kemba Walker made it known that it wasn’t an easy decision. But he also conveyed that he had made the right one as well.
After spending all eight seasons of his NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets, Walker signed a four-year, $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics at the start of free agency and the organization officially introduced their newly coveted prize at a press conference at the Auerbach Center Wednesday.
“It was one of the hardest decisions of my life,” Walker said. “Charlotte’s all I know. It really came down to my happiness and how I want to compete night in, night out. I gave that organization everything I’ve had. My time was up there. I’m ready to start a new chapter, especially here with the Celtics. … I’m excited. I’m happy I made this decision. I definitely made the right choice.”
In his eight seasons with the Hornets, Walker averaged 19.8 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds, but blossomed this past season by setting career highs in points (25.6) and assists (5.9) per game.
Walker has earned All-Star recognition each of the past three years, and for his efforts during the 2018-19 campaign, which included a 60-point outburst versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Walker was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
But despite the individual success, winning at a high rate and getting to the playoffs – Walker reached the postseason only twice with the Hornets and never made it past the first round – has eluded the UConn product. Walker sees a chance to finally change that with the Celtics.
“For me, it’s the competitiveness of this organization,” said Walker, who led the Huskies to a national championship in 2011. “They’ve been winning for years. You see all the banners. It’s a winning organization and I want to win. That’s what I’m about. Throughout my basketball career and as a pro, I haven’t won consistently. I just want to get a taste of that and I thought this was the best place for me to do that.”
With the Celtics, Walker will be thrusted immediately into a leadership role, one that was gaping and plagued the C’s a season ago. And for Walker, it seems his leadership style will differ greatly from his predecessor.
“I try to lead by example for the most part. That’s the kind of guy I am,” Walker said. “Never really going to scream at anybody or anything like that. Chemistry is important. The team has to be together.”
Walker said he was “looking forward” to joining forces with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. Along with that trio, Walker becomes an essential figure in helping the C’s pick up the pieces from the shattered season that just took place.
But Walker won’t say for sure that the C’s will be better than last year, but he’s certainly optimistic that his arrival in Boston will take him and the organization to where they desperately want to go.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “Hopefully it’s great things to come.”