Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker Awaiting Another NBA Opportunity

Former Celtics guard Kemba Walker was a spectator when the team played Saturday night in Atlanta, but he’s not ready for the end of his NBA career, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

Walker appeared in just nine games this season, all with the Mavericks, who signed him in late November and released him on January 6 before his salary would have become fully guaranteed. He would be playoff-eligible if another team signs him before the season ends, but he says he’s fine if that doesn’t happen.

“There’s really no rush for me. I’m really trying to eat up this time, to be real,” Walker said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten so much time to work on myself, work on my body. So I’m not tripping at all. Honestly, I’d probably rather just sit it out and try to be ready for the next go-around, so we’ll see how it (goes).”

Walker was an All-Star when Boston acquired him from the Hornets in 2019. He posted one more All-Star season with the Celtics, but a knee injury eventually derailed his game. He was dealt to the Thunder in 2021 and had an injury-plagued comeback attempt with the Knicks before the Pistons traded for him and waived him last summer.

Walker averaged 8.0 points and 2.1 assists with Dallas in 16 minutes per night, but the ongoing knee issue robbed him of the explosiveness that used to define his game. It also turned him into a defensive liability and made it difficult for coach Jason Kidd to keep him on the court.

“They said they wanted to go young. That was it,” Walker explained. “They wanted to go young, which I respect. I was happy that I got the opportunity to get out there, be in Dallas, get the chance to play with Luka (Doncic) and watch him up close and personal. After playing with (Jayson Tatum), I’ve played with two of the best young players in the game right now. So that was a pretty cool experience.”

Weiss points out that the Celtics have an open roster spot, but he believes they’re more likely to sign a young prospect than to take a chance on a veteran like Walker. He also notes that it’s been hard to find minutes for Payton Pritchard, so there wouldn’t be a role for Walker to play.

Walker, who has spent the past two months working out at his home in Charlotte, is willing to be patient as he awaits his next opportunity.

“I love basketball. I’m not ready to stop playing yet,” he said. “Wherever the wind takes me.”

Stein’s Latest: Conley, Beasley, Collins, Kuzma, Russell, Walker

The Clippers are looking for point guard help and have interest in acquiring Mike Conley from the Jazz, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack column. After a strong start, Utah has fallen to 10th in the West at 22-24 and there’s a growing belief around the league that the team may try to sell off some of its veteran assets, according to Stein.

Conley has remained effective at age 35, averaging 10.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 34 games while shooting 38% from the field and 34.9% from three-point range. The Clippers will be without John Wall for at least two weeks with an abdominal strain, and Reggie Jackson was recently demoted out of his starting spot. Conley is making $22.68MM this year and has a $14.32MM guarantee on his $24.36MM salary for 2023/24.

League sources tell Stein that the Clippers are also seeking another big man to back up Ivica Zubac, who is averaging a career-high 29.1 minutes per game.

Stein shares more trade rumors from around the league:

  • The Cavaliers have considered a three-way trade to acquire Malik Beasley from the Jazz and send the HawksJohn Collins to Utah. Stein reported in November that the Jazz had interest in Collins, but he states that a deal is being held up because the team is asking Atlanta for extra draft compensation for taking on Collins, who still has three full seasons remaining on his five-year, $125MM contract. Stein cites Caris LeVert, who has an $18.8MM expiring deal, as the most likely Cavalier to be involved in the rumored trade.
  • The Wizards are denying that they have interest in moving Kyle Kuzma, with sources telling Stein that the team plans to meet Kuzma’s asking price after he turns down his player option for next season. Stein states that many league executives believe Kuzma would like to move on from Washington, but he cautions that rumor may be coming from teams that are hoping to sign him.
  • Stein confirms a recent report from Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports that the Heat have expressed interest in Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, who has an expiring $31.4MM contract. However, the Wolves would likely have to take back Kyle Lowry unless another team can be added to the trade, and Minnesota doesn’t want to take on Lowry’s contract.
  • Kemba Walker, who was waived by the Mavericks prior to the leaguewide salary guarantee date, is focused on finding another NBA opportunity. Stein says a weekend report in Italy that Walker was close to signing with Olimpia Milano was mistaken.

Western Notes: Spurs Trade, Mavs, Kemba, Nnaji, M. Brown

The Spurs received $1.5MM from the Celtics as part of Thursday’s Noah Vonleh trade, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). As Marks lays out, the deal resulted in cash savings for both teams.

Because Vonleh’s cap hit is no longer on their books, the Celtics will save about $7.1MM on their projected luxury tax bill, so sending out just $1.5MM to realize those savings was a no-brainer for Boston.

As for the Spurs, they’ll only owe Vonleh about $28K in salary for the two days he spends on waivers, but will have to pay Gorgui Dieng an additional $992K for the rest of the season, since his salary was fully guaranteed. Still, factoring in the $1.5MM in cash that they got from Boston, the Spurs will come out about $480K ahead after waiving both players — on top of that, they have a newly opened roster spot, which they could use to take fliers on 10-day signees.

The draft pick the Spurs sent to the Celtics in the deal is San Antonio’s top-54 protected 2024 second-rounder, tweets Marks.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd didn’t rule out the possibility of the team bringing back Kemba Walker on a 10-day contract after waiving him earlier today, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. The team now has an open roster spot to bring in Walker or another player on a 10-day deal.
  • Playing out of position as a center rather than a forward is getting Zeke Nnaji minutes in the Nuggets‘ rotation, but the role may not play to his strengths, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). After making 61-of-139 threes (43.9%) in his first two seasons, Nnaji is just 3-of-18 this season from beyond the arc. “With the five, it’s a lot less picking-and-popping,” he said. “They want me more rolling and putting pressure on that rim because if I’m popping every time, there’s not as much thrust on the rim, which collapses the defense. Right now I gotta roll more, even though I feel like I’m a capable shooter, I gotta do what’s best for the team.”
  • In an in-depth story for The Athletic, Jason Lloyd explores why Mike Brown was so intrigued by the Kings‘ head coaching opening this past spring and what he learned in his previous head coaching jobs that he brought with him to Sacramento.

Mavericks Waive Kemba Walker

10:48am: The move is official, the Mavericks confirmed (via Twitter).

10:19am: Kemba Walker‘s comeback with the Mavericks only lasted nine games, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who tweets that Dallas will waive the veteran guard before his contract becomes fully guaranteed this weekend.

Walker, 32, signed with the team in late November, hoping to resurrect his NBA career after knee issues cut short his stays with the Knicks and Celtics. Walker averaged 8.0 points in 16.0 minutes per game during his time in Dallas and even turned in a 32-point outing.

MacMahon states that the Mavs want to dedicate more playing time to young guard McKinley Wright IV, who has been earning minutes on a two-way contract, and second-round pick Jaden Hardy, who may get a larger role in the second half of the season. A source told MacMahon that Walker was an “ultimate pro” in his short stay with the Mavs.

The team will have a $684,712 cap hit for Walker, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

A four-time All-Star with Charlotte and Boston, Walker is in his 12th NBA season. His performance in Dallas may lead to other opportunities now that teams are able to offer 10-day contracts.

New York Notes: Fournier, Reddish, Kemba, Warren, Durant

The Knicks were without Jalen Brunson on Tuesday in Dallas and lost RJ Barrett early in the first quarter due to a finger injury, but Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish still didn’t see any action, nor did they expect to, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News.

“We already knew,” Fournier said. “So I’m not surprised.”

Fournier and Reddish were regulars for the Knicks earlier in the season, with Fournier starting seven games and Reddish starting eight. However, they’ve fallen out of the rotation completely in recent weeks, and they’re not sure what it’ll take to get another look, according to Bondy.

“I’m going to be 1000% honest with you — you probably know more about that than me,” Reddish said. “I have no idea. None.”

“It’s been six weeks that I’m not playing. I’ve been pretty patient,” Fournier said. “It’s starting to be a little long. Maybe there’s going to be an opportunity, I don’t know.”

Both Fournier and Reddish are candidates to be on the move prior to February’s trade deadline.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Both Kemba Walker and Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau stressed that there are no hard feelings about how last season played out, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Walker referred to his decision to shut himself down in February as “selfish,” but pointed out that he wasn’t playing much and needed to get his body right. “The only issue we had with Kemba was health,” Thibodeau said. “If Kemba’s healthy, he’s a great guy and he’s a great player.”
  • Veteran forward T.J. Warren, who signed a minimum-salary contract with the Nets during the summer, is making a case to be the offseason’s best bargain, says Brian Lewis of The New York Post. After returning from a long injury absence, Warren is starting to hit his stride, setting new season highs with 23 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes in Monday’s win over Cleveland. He’s also making an impact on the defensive end of the court. “What’s surprising was how good he is deflecting the basketball on defense,” teammate Kevin Durant said. “Scorers like him get a rap on defense, but he’s made an impact on that end. He’s a natural.”
  • The Nets‘ recent hot streak is proving that the front office’s decision not to trade Durant when he asked to be moved over the summer was the right one and showing why you hang onto a player of his caliber, according to Jonathan Lehman of The New York Post (subscription required).

Western Notes: Sabonis, Walker, Wiggins, Warriors

Kings big man Domantas Sabonis has an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets via a team press release. Sabonis suffered the injury against Washington on Friday and the extent of the damage was determined by team physicians and outside specialists. Sabonis, averaging 17.9 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.7 assists, has decided to try to play through the injury and is listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game against Denver.

We have more Western Conference news:

  • Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said he’ll watch Kemba Walker‘s minutes more carefully, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Walker has missed the last two games due to soreness in his left knee and is listed as questionable to play Tuesday against the Knicks. Walker poured in 32 points in 42 minutes against Cleveland on Dec. 17, shortly after Dallas signed him.
  • Andrew Wiggins won’t return to the Warriors’ lineup until he gets more practice time, Kendra Andrews of ESPN tweets. Warriors coach Steve Kerr provided the update on Wiggins, who hasn’t played since Dec. 3 due to a groin injury. He’ll miss his 11th straight game on Tuesday.
  • Playing the Grizzlies on Christmas Day provided the Warriors with a much-needed jolt, Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic writes. The Warriors, spurred by Memphis’ trash talking, picked up six technical fouls but also a 14-point victory. “I think it gets us to the appropriate level of intensity,” center Kevon Looney said. “We’ve had two guys ejected against them, which is never good. But we usually find a way to win those games. Every time we play them, we have our antennas up. We’re ready to play.”

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Wood, Bullock, Walker

Luka Doncic was brilliant in Friday’s win at Houston, but a narrow victory on his 50-point night continues to raise concerns about the rest of the Mavericks‘ roster, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Doncic also had 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals, but Dallas needed his late 30-foot three-pointer to hold off a rally by the Rockets, who have the worst record in the West.

“Luka is Luka,” coach Jason Kidd said after the game. “He’s the best player in the world, and he showed that tonight.”

There are questions about whether that’s enough for Dallas to put together another long playoff run. Caplan notes that after holding a 61-50 lead at halftime, the Mavs were outscored 34-20 in the third quarter with Doncic getting 15 of those points. No other Dallas player topped 11 points on the night.

“Besides Luka, we didn’t have a really high percentage from the floor,” Kidd admitted. “But Luka sensed that and controlled the game.”

There’s more on the Mavericks:

  • Christian Wood is now eligible for a four-year contract extension as Friday marked six months since he was acquired from Houston in a trade, Caplan points out in the same story. Wood can receive a new deal worth up to $77MM over four years any time before the start of free agency, but Caplan says it’s not clear what either side plans to do. Wood could opt for unrestricted free agency in July in hopes of landing more money, either from the Mavericks or another team, while Dallas could decide to use Wood’s expiring salary as a trade chip. Caplan suggests the Mavs may want to see how Wood performs in the playoffs before making a long-term commitment.
  • Reggie Bullock left Friday’s game in the third quarter with a strained neck, the Mavericks announced (via Twitter). Caplan observed that Bullock was holding his head in his hands after the injury and appeared “woozy” as he walked to the locker room. With Josh Green, Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith already sidelined, Caplan said Dallas may be without its four best defensive players for the Christmas Day game against the Lakers.
  • Kemba Walker will miss his second straight game Sunday due to injury recovery for his left knee (Twitter link). Caplan tweets that Kidd was trying to pace the veteran guard so he would be available to play on Christmas.

Southwest Notes: D. Green, Kemba, Pelicans, K. Martin

Appearing on NBA Today on Friday alongside Grizzlies wing Danny Green, who is recovering from an ACL tear, Brian Windhorst said that his fellow panelist might end up being a trade chip before February’s deadline.

“This is awkward, I’m sorry to say this, Danny,” Windhorst said (YouTube video link). “… One of the (trade possibilities) that people are talking about is if the Grizzlies want to upgrade, will they call about Danny Green and a draft pick? … I do think you will hear your name, I’m sorry to say, in some trade discussions.”

“I’m not shocked. At this point in my career, I hear my name quite often,” Green, who has been traded four times since the 2018 offseason, responded with a smile.

While it would make sense for the Grizzlies to dangle Green’s expiring $10MM contract along with a draft pick or two in an effort to upgrade their rotation, Windhorst also offered a couple reasons why a deal might not happen. As he points out, Memphis wants veteran leaders to complement its young core, and Green has won three championship rings. Additionally, the club has a solid record in the draft and may be reluctant to part with its picks.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • With several Mavericks regulars sidelined, point guard Kemba Walker played 42 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland and looked like his old self. Walker put up 32 points and seven assists and was a plus-7 in a game Dallas lost by a single point, then told reporters after the game that he felt “really good out there” (Twitter link via Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News). While they shouldn’t expect that sort of production on a regular basis, Walker’s impressive play could be a significant development for the Mavs, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.
  • The Pelicans no longer have All-Defensive mainstays like Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis on their roster, but homegrown players like Naji Marshall, Jose Alvarado, Herb Jones and Dyson Daniels are buoying one of the NBA’s best defenses, writes Christian Clark of (subscription required). New Orleans currently ranks sixth in the league in defensive rating (109.7).
  • In an in-depth story for The Houston Chronicle (subscription required), Danielle Lerner profiles Kenyon Martin Jr. and explores how the forward has become a crucial “glue guy” for the Rockets. “He’s always been like a smart player, but I think he’s even smarter now,” head coach Stephen Silas said of Martin. “You know he’s not gonna make a mistake. He knows where he’s supposed to be. When it comes to defensive coverages or offensive plays, he’s usually in the right spot. And, you know, he is one of the guys that kind of gets us going with our transition game as well. So to have someone who’s running the floor and crashing the glass and using all this athleticism, but also a cerebral player, that makes him valuable.”

Southwest Notes: Walker, Hardy, Vassell, Zion

If there was a bright side to the Mavericks‘ 29-point loss to the Bulls Saturday night, it provided an opportunity for newly signed Kemba Walker to make his season debut, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.

A late starting time Friday, followed by a flight, meant the Mavs didn’t arrive in Chicago until 3:45 a.m. Coach Jason Kidd held out Luka Doncic, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber, who are all dealing with minor injuries, creating an opportunity for Walker. He responded with eight points and five assists in 20 minutes while playing for the first time since February.

“I wouldn’t say (I felt) super-comfortable,” Walker said. “But it’s my first game with new guys, trying to see where I can fit in, so it might take a little time. Or might not, I don’t know. But it was good to be out there with those guys. They made me feel good. They’ve been treating me well since I got here.”

The Mavericks also got an extended look at Jaden Hardy, a 20-year-old rookie who has spent much of the season in the G League. The second-round pick played 23 minutes Saturday and scored 15 points.

“It was a long travel day, but it felt good being out there being with the guys,” he said. “It was a tough loss, but I think we’ll put this one in the past and be ready for the next one.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs swingman Devin Vassell sat out Thursday’s game with knee soreness and wasn’t sure he was going to play Saturday until warmups, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. He was on a minutes restriction, but scored 18 points off the bench. “I am going to play through it the whole season,” Vassell said of the knee issue, which has caused him to miss five games so far. “It’s good sometimes and it’s not sometimes. But I have to play through it. I have to be here for my team, so that’s what I am going to do.”
  • Zion Williamson‘s late-game 360 dunk to punctuate the Pelicans‘ win over the Suns Friday night led to a skirmish (video link), but he considered it a manner of revenge for last season’s playoff loss, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Several players exchanged words after the dunk, but no punches were thrown. “I got carried away a little bit. I admit that,” Williamson said. “But you know, I was in that locker room when my brothers were down because the Suns sent us home last year. That’s a tough moment to be a part of. So in that moment, I got carried away. I admit that. … If they were to do the same thing, I wouldn’t have no problem with it.”
  • The Pelicans are still without Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones for today’s rematch with Phoenix, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic. Ingram will miss his seventh game with a toe injury and Jones will sit out his fourth with an injured ankle.

Mavericks Notes: Kemba, Wood, Trade Options

Appearing on Thursday on The Ticket Sportradio 96.7 FM in Dallas, Mavericks president of basketball operations Nico Harrison said that newly signed point guard Kemba Walker will need about one week to get game-ready, since he hasn’t played since February and didn’t have a training camp. Harrison also made some rather candid remarks when asked about Walker’s long-standing knee issue, as Josh Bowe of Mavs Moneyball relays.

“It’s not good, it’s not good at all,” Harrison said of the knee. “But he’s rehabbed it. And it’s actually the best he’s felt in the last two years, so we’ll see how long that lasts.”

When it was pointed out to him that “it’s not good” wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Walker’s health, Harrison explained that he was referring more to how the injury has hampered the former All-Star in recent seasons, rather than assessing the current state of Walker’s knee.

“It hasn’t been good for a few years,” Harrison said. “Even last year, he had 30-point games on it. But it actually feels better now. The reality is, if you look at it, it’s just not good. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play on it.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Mavericks big man Christian Wood has been ruled out for Saturday afternoon’s game vs. New York due to a non-COVID illness, the team announced (via Twitter). With Wood unavailable, Dallas figures to lean more on Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber. It’s possible that JaVale McGee, who has been out of the rotation as of late, will also see a little playing time.
  • After ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins predicted during an NBA Today segment that the Mavericks will miss the playoffs if they don’t make a deal to give Luka Doncic more help, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski observed that the team’s trade assets are somewhat limited (YouTube video link). Wojnarowski expects any trades the Mavs make before this season’s deadline to be “marginal” or “slight” upgrades.
  • Part of the Mavs’ problem, according to Wojnarowski, is that they haven’t drafted well over the years, with the exception of 2018, when they selected Doncic and Jalen Brunson. Doncic was the first Dallas draft pick to get an extension with the club since 2003 first-rounder Josh Howard, while the team mishandled the Brunson situation and ended up losing him for nothing.