Kemba Walker

Celtics Notes: Walker, Stevens, Fournier, Williams, Smart, Griffin

Kemba Walker, who was traded to the Thunder on Friday, had a “tension-filled” season with former coach and now president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Multiple team sources tell Weiss there was dysfunction in the Celtics‘ locker room and Stevens was seen as being tougher with Walker than other players. Weiss adds that after Gordon Hayward left to sign with the Hornets, he told Stevens that he needed to take a more forceful stance with players for the team to be successful.

Stevens became harder on several players, including Walker, who he frequently criticized for errors on defense. Walker and Stevens often argued, sources add, but they maintained a working relationship and respect for each other.

According to multiple sources, Walker, who signed with Boston two years ago in free agency, became angry about the team’s disappointing season and boos directed at him by Celtics fans. He began talking privately about moving to another team and was willing to accept a trade.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Weiss:

  • Trading Walker was a first step toward keeping free agent guard Evan Fournier and young center Robert Williams, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The Celtics hope to bring back Fournier on a long-term deal while creating only a modest tax bill. The trade will also make it easier to add a maximum salary slot for 2022 free agency, as Horford’s contract has just a $14MM guarantee in its final season.
  • Multiple sources said several players were hoping for a coaching change, believing Stevens didn’t hold some of his star players accountable. There was also frustration with the coach’s “college offense” and complaints that players would get stuck in isolation. There seems to be a preference in the locker room for a Black coach with NBA playing experience, and Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are among the candidates being given second interviews.
  • Marcus Smart stands to inherit the starting point guard role and will hope to re-establish a culture of accountability on defense that he built along with Al Horford, who returns to the team in the Walker trade. Teammates often ignored Smart after Horford left, according to sources, which led to his confrontation with Jaylen Brown after Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
  • After Blake Griffin‘s buyout with the Pistons, he asked a Celtics player about joining the team and was told there was too much dysfunction.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Ham, Billups, Walker, Fournier, Williams, Smart

Assistant coaches Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks) and Chauncey Billups (Clippers) are expected to get interviewed a second time by the Celtics’ brass for the head coaching job vacated by new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. While that trio is viewed as serious candidates for the job, others are still under consideration.

Udoka has received endorsements from Celtics players who were members of the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Ham has interviewed for several head-coaching jobs in the past two years, while Billups has drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Magic and Pelicans for their current openings.

We have more Celtics news:

  • By shedding Kemba Walker‘s salary in a trade with the Thunder on Friday, the Celtics believe they’ll have a better chance of re-signing free agent Evan Fournier, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The trade also increases the possibility of signing another free agent to the full mid-level exception, Murphy adds.
  • Walker’s 15% trade kicker was nullified due to his large salary, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus tweets. Walker’s $34,379,100 salary this season, coupled with him being a nine-year veteran until August 2, exceeded the $32,742,000 maximum. He couldn’t earn anything above that, so the trade bonus was voided. If Walker had been traded once the new league year began in August, he could’ve received a portion of that bonus.
  • Robert Williams and Marcus Smart are two other prominent players who could be on the move, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Boston’s roster is overloaded with centers and Williams could be used to bring in a backcourt piece. Smart has an expiring $14.4MM contract next season and is eligible for an extension that could go as high as $17.MM in the first year. If Smart believes he could get more on the free agent market next year, the team may consider moving him now and getting assets in return.

Celtics Trade Kemba Walker To Thunder

11:20am: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Thunder and Celtics.

The second-round pick the Thunder will receive in 2025 will be the most favorable of the Celtics’ and Grizzlies’ picks, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The second-rounder that Boston will get in 2023 will be the least favorable of the following three picks that OKC controls:

  • The Thunder’s own second-rounder.
  • The Wizards’ second-rounder.
  • The most favorable of the Mavericks’ and Heat’s second-rounders.

Boston agreed to give Brown a $500K guarantee for next season as part of the deal, according to Marks (Twitter link). The Celtics also generated a $6.88MM trade exception.

8:20am: The Celtics will send point guard Kemba Walker and a pair of draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a future pick, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Boston has been looking for a taker for the veteran guard, who has been injured for much of the two years he spent with the team. A recent report said former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge started shopping Walker after the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs last summer.

The main incentive for Boston was to get rid of Walker’s contract, which pays him close to $74MM over the next two seasons. He was considered an important addition when he signed a free agent deal with the Celtics two years ago, but a lingering knee injury limited his effectiveness. The 31-year-old missed 29 games this season and averaged 19.3 PPG, his worst scoring numbers in six years, while shooting just 42% from the field.

Walker’s contract includes a 15% trade bonus that will be voided, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). He would have received an additional $3.2MM if the trade had occurred after the league’s new calendar year starts on August 6.

The Thunder will receive the Celtics’ first-round pick this year, which is slotted at No. 16, along with a second-rounder in 2025. Boston will get OKC’s second-round selection in 2023. The Thunder now have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and five of the top 36 choices.

Horford returns to the Celtics two years after leaving for the Sixers in free agency. He spent one year in Philadelphia before being traded to Oklahoma City last December in a cost-cutting move. Horford never found a role on the rebuilding Thunder and played just 28 games before being shut down in late March after the trade deadline passed.

The 35-year-old big man was still effective when he played, averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per night, and should be a welcome addition to the Celtics’ frontcourt. He will make $27MM next season and $26.5MM in 2022/23, but only $14.5MM of that year’s salary is guaranteed. Boston will save about $20MM for next season with the trade, Marks adds, and that figure could rise to $32MM for 2022/23 if Horford is waived before the season starts (Twitter link).

Brown, a 21-year-old center, showed a lot of promise in his second NBA season, starting 32 of the 43 games he played and averaging 8.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG per night. He is under contract through 2023/24, but no money is guaranteed beyond this season.

Today’s trade marks the first major deal for former coach Brad Stevens since he became the Celtics’ president of basketball operations two weeks ago. Wojnarowski notes that it involves Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who has been a friend of Stevens dating back to when he coached at Butler (Twitter link). Woj adds that it’s unusual for trades to take place before the pre-draft combine, but both sides were happy with what they got.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Scariolo, Kemba, Knicks

After going 0-for-12 from the field in the second half of the Sixers‘ Game 4 loss to Atlanta on Monday, star center Joel Embiid admitted that the partially torn meniscus in his right knee is bothering him to some extent. That injury is limiting Embiid’s athleticism, which was an issue in particular on a last-minute layup attempt that would’ve tied the game, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Great look. I just didn’t have the lift,” Embiid said. “… Usually, I would go up, especially for a bucket like that, try to dunk it. Try to get fouled and get an and-1. But … not being able to jump for obvious reasons. … It’s tough.”

Embiid didn’t show many ill effects of that knee injury in the first three games of the series, averaging 35.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG on .533/.364/.809 shooting. In Game 4, he put up 17 points and 21 rebounds, but was just 4-of-20 on field goal attempts. After the game, he said he doesn’t expect to be 100% healthy until next season, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Raptors may be losing another assistant, with reports suggesting that Sergio Scariolo will become the new head coach of Virtus Bologna in Italy. Josh Lewenberg of tweets that nothing has been finalized yet, but confirms that Scariolo has had discussions with the Italian club. If Scariolo departs, he’d be the third top Raptors assistant to leave the team within the last year, joining Nate Bjorkgren and Chris Finch.
  • Nekias Duncan of considers some potential landing spots that would make sense for Kemba Walker if the Celtics trade him this offseason. Report last week suggested there’s a growing sense that Walker could be moved.
  • Mike Vorkunov and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic take a deep dive into the Knicks‘ offseason, exploring the team’s primary goals, its cap situation, and the prospects that might be the best fits at Nos. 19 and 21 in the draft.

Kemba Walker, Celtics Appear Headed Toward Breakup

Kemba Walker and the Celtics are both looking to end their relationship this summer, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (video link).

Former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge began shopping Walker after the team was eliminated from the playoffs last summer, Mannix states. He says Ainge and the front office were skeptical about Walker’s future after a knee injury he suffered in January 2020 lingered into the summer restart.

According to Mannix, the Celtics talked to “multiple teams” about a deal involving Walker, including a potential swap with the Spurs for LaMarcus Aldridge. The incentive for Boston was that Aldridge, now retired, had an expiring contract, while Walker is owed close to $74MM over the next two seasons.

Walker places a high priority on loyalty, Mannix adds, and was “frustrated” to learn that he was involved in trade talks after choosing the Celtics in free agency in 2019.

The report from Mannix coincides with a story by Farbod Esnaashari of Bleacher Report that claims there’s a “mutual agreement” between Walker and the Celtics to seek an offseason trade. Esnaashari mentions the Knicks and Mavericks as teams with the potential cap flexibility to assimilate Walker’s $36MM salary for next year.

Walker, 31, is a four-time All-Star, but his production has declined during two injury-plagued seasons in Boston. He went from scoring 25.6 PPG in his final year in Charlotte to 20.4 last season and 19.3 this year. He shot 42% from the field and 36% from three-point range, which were his worst numbers in six years.

A sore knee forced him to miss the start of the season, and he didn’t play his first game until mid-January. Walker missed 29 games this season and appeared in just 56 last year.

And-Ones: Jrue, Vegas, Pangos, Payton, Big Markets

Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy, having been named the winner of the 2020/21 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the league announced today in a press release.

The award, which aims to honor the player who “best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” is voted on by current NBA players. Each team nominates one of its players, a panel of league executives pares the list down to six finalists (one from each division), and the players vote on those six finalists.

Holiday, who earned 130 of 343 first-place votes, beat out runner-up Kemba Walker (74 first-place votes) for the award. Bam Adebayo, Harrison Barnes, Derrick White, and Josh Okogie were the other finalists.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • While it’s unclear when the NBA might seriously pursue expansion, Las Vegas has frequently been cited as a city the league would consider, and a Yahoo News report suggests one potential ownership group may be in place in Vegas. As Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays, billionaire Jay Bloom heads a series of investors who reportedly have the funds and the connections necessary to be the frontrunners to own a Vegas NBA franchise if the opportunity arises.
  • Kevin Pangos, one of the top point guards in the EuroLeague, is drawing plenty of interest from European teams but may wait until NBA free agency to make a decision, says Aris Barkas of Eurohoops. There’s no indication that Pangos has an NBA offer awaiting him, but the former Gonzaga standout wants to consider all his options before making a decision.
  • Hall-of-Fame guard Gary Payton, who has spoken in the past about wanting to coach in the NBA, tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that he has agreed to a multiyear contract to coach Lincoln University in his hometown of Oakland, California.
  • In the wake of teams like the Celtics, the Knicks, and especially the Lakers being eliminated from the postseason, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic explores just how dependent the NBA is on its marquee, big-market franchises, and what the league can do to reduce that dependence.

Celtics Rumors: Kemba, Fournier, Coaching Search, Ainge, Stevens, More

As he transitions from the sidelines to the front office, new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will have some immediate decisions to make on the roster this offseason as he considers how to improve a group that finished seventh in the East in 2020/21.

Trading Kemba Walker is one path the Celtics figure to consider this summer, but the point guard still has two years and nearly $74MM left on his contract and his value is down after an injury-plagued season. While Walker is viewed as a player capable of having a strong comeback season, he’s not considered a positive asset at this point, given his injury history and contract situation, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps and Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“They’ve been trying to move Kemba Walker for a year now and no one is touching that,” one NBA executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “Their best bet would be to move (Marcus) Smart, but I don’t know what his market is. They could trade (Jaylen) Brown to try to fill a different position, but that would be a bad move.”

Evan Fournier‘s unrestricted free agency is another issue looming over the Celtics. One league executive who spoke to Scotto estimated that the veteran wing will be seeking a deal worth $15-20MM annually, though another predicted a cool market for Fournier.

“The issue will be what teams with room are going to target him?” that exec asked. “San Antonio might, but if not, who else will give him north of $10 million? If Fournier can be kept at a price around the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, I think Boston would re-sign him.”

Here are several more Celtics rumors and updates on an eventful day in Boston:

  • The Celtics’ head coaching search will likely start with internal candidates before they move outside the organization, sources tell Chris Mannix of (Twitter link). Current assistant Jerome Allen is one in-house candidate likely to get an interview, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Mannix (via Twitter) adds Nets assistant Ime Udoka to the list of probable external candidates for the Celtics’ head coaching job, while Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) says Chauncey Billups will likely receive consideration as well.
  • Asked today whether he intends to retire or seek another job, Danny Ainge was noncommittal, telling reporters that he’s not sure what his future holds and he’s focused for now on getting his successor Stevens up to speed (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic hears that in-season comments by Ainge and team owner Wyc Grousbeck about the Celtics’ shortcomings may have contributed to the club’s chemistry issues. Ainge said in February that he didn’t view the roster as championship-caliber and echoed that point multiple times later in the season.
  • One prominent member of the Celtics organization wanted to fire Stevens as the team’s head coach during the 2020/21 season, but Ainge and others in the organization were against that idea, sources tell Ian Begley of
  • Speaking to reporters following the Celtics’ elimination from the postseason, Jayson Tatum said he doesn’t feel the need to get involved in the front office’s personnel decisions, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston takes a look at five key roster-related questions facing the Celtics this offseason.

Injury Updates: Walker, Williams, KCP, Doncic, Kleber, T. Antetokounmpo

With the Celtics facing elimination, Kemba Walker and Robert Williams have been declared out for Game 5 against the Nets on Tuesday, Malika Andrews of ESPN tweets. Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Williams (left ankle sprain) had previously been listed as doubtful. Neither played in Game 4 after exiting Game 3 in the early going.

We have more injury updates:

  • Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to return to the lineup for Game 5 against Phoenix on Tuesday, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. He missed Game 4 with a sore left knee.
  • The Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (neck strain) and Maxi Kleber (right Achilles soreness) are listed as probable to play Game 5 on Wednesday, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News tweets.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo isn’t doing any contact work yet but “he did most, if not all of the non-contact portion of (Tuesday’s) practice,” according to Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, as Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. He suffered an avulsion fracture to his right patella tendon suffered on May 16.

Injury Notes: Embiid, Bertans, Celtics, CP3

As we relayed on Monday evening, Sixers center Joel Embiid left Game 4 vs. Washington due to right knee soreness after playing just 11 minutes. After the game, head coach Doc Rivers said that Embiid would undergo an MRI on the injured knee on Tuesday, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Rivers was unsure whether Embiid would be available for Game 5 on Wednesday.

While the Sixers will need a healthy Embiid to make a serious run at the NBA Finals, the club is confident that it can win one more game against the Wizards and advance to the second round with or without its All-Star center.

“We’re going to need him to be the last team standing, to win,” Sixers guard Danny Green said, per Windhorst. “It doesn’t mean we can’t win the next game without him.”

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Wizards forward Davis Bertans was having his best game of the playoffs on Monday before a right calf strain forced him to exit the game early. It’s the same injury that sidelined him for two weeks in March, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who reports that Bertans will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
  • The Celtics have listed Kemba Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Robert Williams (left ankle sprain) as doubtful for Game 5 on Tuesday. If Walker and Williams don’t play in tonight’s game, their seasons may be over, since Boston is on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to Brooklyn.
  • Suns guard Chris Paul (right shoulder contusion) “didn’t do a ton” at Monday’s practice, according to head coach Monty Williams, but it was a light day of work in general for the team (Twitter link via Gina Mizell). Paul is listed as probable for Game 5 on Tuesday and seems very likely to suit up.
  • In case you missed it, All-Star Lakers big man Anthony Davis (left groin strain) is considered unlikely to be available for Game 5 vs. Phoenix. He’s officially listed as questionable.

Eastern Notes: Irving, Celtics, Bucks, Cavaliers

After having to address a series of fan-related incidents at games last week, the NBA is dealing with another one to start this week. As the Nets were leaving the TD Garden court on Sunday following a win over the Celtics, a fan threw a water bottle at Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving.

A TD Garden spokesperson announced late last night that the individual who threw the water bottle was arrested and is subject to a lifetime ban from the arena (link via Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe). The 21-year-old male is facing charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned on Tuesday, according to Boston PD (Twitter link via Shams Charania of The Athletic).

The bottle missed hitting Irving, who had spoken prior to Game 3 about hoping that fans would keep heckling and jeering “strictly basketball” in his return to Boston.

“You can see that people just feel very entitled out here,” Irving said after Game 4, per Malika Andrews and Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “They paid for their tickets — great, I’m grateful that they’re coming in to watch a great performance. But we’re not at the theater. We’re not throwing tomatoes and other random stuff at the people that are performing.”

The water bottle toss was the latest in a series of incidents involving fans. Fans in Philadelphia and New York received indefinite arena bans last week for dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook and spitting on Trae Young, respectively. Ja Morant‘s father also said that he and his wife had racist, vulgar comments directed toward them in Utah, as Andrews and Bontemps note.

“I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out, but when you come to these games, you have to realize these men are human,” Kevin Durant said on Sunday. “We are not animals; we are not in the circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. So, have some respect for the game. Have some respect for the human beings, and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players or spitting on players or tossing popcorn.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • The Celtics played without Kemba Walker (left knee bone bruise) and Robert Williams (turf toe, sprained left ankle) during Sunday’s loss, as Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, and it’s not clear whether one or both players will be available for the team’s win-or-game-home Game 5 on Tuesday.
  • The transformation the Bucks‘ roster underwent during the 2020 offseason paid off in the first round of the 2021 postseason, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The team – which added Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis, and Bryn Forbes last fall – figures to face a tougher test in round two, with a potential matchup vs. Brooklyn on tap.
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic pushes back against GM Koby Altman‘s assertion that the Cavaliers had no young talent or draft assets in place when the team’s rebuild began in 2018 following LeBron James‘ departure. As Lloyd observes, rather than going all-in during LeBron’s final years in Cleveland, as they did during his first stint with the franchise, the Cavs had already traded Kyrie Irving for a lottery pick and had swapped out some veterans for younger players like Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance.