Kemba Walker

International Notes: Walker, Bridges, Lue, Fournier

Kemba Walker talked about promoting the EuroLeague and giving it more worldwide recognition as he arrived in Europe this week to join AS Monaco Basket, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. The free agent point guard, who had been looking for a new team since the Mavericks waived him in January, agreed to a one-year deal with Monaco last month.

“I hope I can help increase the notoriety of the EuroLeague,” Walker said. “To increase the style of play and just built it up more. … It’s a big step. Something different. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity. I just want to play basketball.” 

There are plenty of former NBA players in the EuroLeague, but no one has the resume of Walker, who was a four-time All-Star before a knee injury derailed his career. Even if the experience in Europe doesn’t lead to another NBA opportunity, Walker is hoping to show that he can still play at a high level.

“I’m looking forward to be in a different environment,” he said. “Learning my teammates. Meeting new people… the coaching staff, medical guys, everything. Basketball is basketball. And I’m here to win games.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Mikal Bridges is enjoying his first time representing the U.S. in international competition, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Bridges won two national titles at Villanova and has developed into an elite player with Phoenix and Brooklyn, but he considers playing for the World Cup team to be the highlight of his career. “It’s definitely surreal, just being here, having these colors on, having USA across the chest,” he said. “When Steve (Kerr) first talked to me about being on the team, I was in Phoenix then, and when he called, it was already a ‘Pinch me’ moment. And when I got the official call from Grant (Hill) asking me to be on the team, I was like, ‘Oh shoot, we’re really doing this.’”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is part of Kerr’s staff after an injury cost him a chance to join Team USA as a player in 1997, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “I think it’s an honor,” Lue said. “You grow up watching basketball, watching the Olympic team, the Dream Team, you always want to play for those teams. I wasn’t good enough, but it’s amazing to have an opportunity to represent my country in any capacity. So, coaching is what it is.”
  • French guard Evan Fournier reached a milestone Wednesday by taking part in the 100th international game of his career, according to Eurohoops. The Knicks‘ guard had 10 points and two assists in a win over Japan.

And-Ones: Walker, Irving, Summer League Rookies

Kemba Walker is ready for the opportunity to revive his career in France, whether it eventually leads him back to the NBA or not. After signing a one-year deal with AS Monaco Basket, Walker talked about his future in a press release issued by the team.

“The NBA is obviously the main focus, but I played there for many years,” he said. “For now I am only focusing on my new adventure, this experience that awaits me with the new life I will have. I am so excited and looking forward to this opportunity in Monaco. I’m really looking forward to discovering the city, the people, my teammates, the staff and everything around the club. We are going to live great moments. Let it begin.”

Walker is a four-time All-Star, but his career has been slowed by knee issues over the past three years. He signed with the Mavericks late last November, but played just nine games before Dallas waived him in January to avoid having a full guarantee on his salary.

Walker hasn’t gotten any other NBA offers, so he was open to playing in Europe when AS Monaco reached out to him.

The club was very interested in me, and I just wanted to be part of a club that wanted me, that believed in me,” Walker said. “I saw that the leaders felt that I could help them reach another level. That’s what convinced me, and what made me decide to join Monaco. In addition, it is an extraordinary city, in which I want to spend time, gain a new life experience. So it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to this opportunity. I just want to keep playing basketball at a high level, and Monaco allows me to do that.”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving posted a triple-double on Saturday in his first-ever appearance at the Drew League in Los Angeles, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. Irving helped his team, Nationwide Souljas, qualify for next month’s playoffs in the pro-am league, which he is now eligible to participate in.
  • Spurs big man Victor Wembanyama should eventually become a dominant player, but turnovers might be a problem for him in his first NBA season, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic states in a review of several rookies at Summer League. Wembanyama’s handle isn’t as tight as it needs to be when he drives to the basket, Vecenie observes, but he’s still likely to have the best career of anyone in the 2023 draft class. Vecenie also predicts stardom for Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson and offers his thoughts on numerous other first-year players.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explains why it makes more sense to evaluate new free agent contracts by the percentage of the salary cap they take up rather than their overall dollar value.

International Notes: James, Walker, Brown, Chealey

Despite the impending arrival of Kemba Walker, a four-time NBA All-Star, AS Monaco has no plans to move on from former NBA point guard Mike James, writes Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.

Language in James’ contract gives him an NBA exit clause until July 25, so there was speculation that Monaco reached a deal with Walker in order to account for James’ exit. However, Urbonas suggests that Walker’s history of knee problems – which ultimately ended his All-Star prime – may be the reason the team is looking to retain James, along with perhaps the rest of its current backcourt, guards Jordan Loyd, Elie Okobo, and Matthew Strazel.

There’s more from around the international basketball world:

  • With Walker ending his 12-year NBA run for now, Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic examine Kemba’s decision and what it could mean for the rest of his playing career. King notes that, though Walker’s NBA run may have come to a close, his decision to continue his career abroad speaks to his love for the game. Weiss writes that the 33-year-old is joining a really solid club, which qualified for its first-ever EuroLeague Final Four earlier this year.
  • Former NBA and G League swingman Chaundee Brown Jr. has joined French club SIG Strasbourg, reports Dario Skerletic of Sportando. The 6’5″ wing out of Michigan appeared in a grand total of five NBA contests during the 2021/22 season on a brief two-way contract with the Lakers, plus a 10-day deal with the Hawks, averaging 6.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 0.8 APG in 20.8 MPG. He spent 2022/23 with the Spurs’ G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.
  • NBA veteran Joe Chealey has linked up with Israeli team Hapoel Eilat, Skerletic writes in another piece. Chealey had played on a two-way contract and some 10-day deals with the Hornets from 2018-20. The 6’1″ point guard out of the College of Charleston subsequently played with Charlotte’s G League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm, Israeli club Hapoel Gilboa Galil, and Polish team MKS Dąbrowa Górnicza.

Kemba Walker Signs With AS Monaco

Free agent point guard Kemba Walker will resume his playing career in Europe, having signed with AS Monaco Basket for the 2023/24 season. The team, which competes in France’s LNB Pro A and the EuroLeague, confirmed the deal on Twitter.

A four-time NBA All-Star, Walker has been slowed in recent years by knee injuries. He was traded from New York to Detroit in a salary-dump deal during the 2022 offseason and was waived by the Pistons prior to the regular season. He caught on with the Mavericks in November, but appeared in just nine games for the team last season before being cut in January.

Walker, 33, can still be an effective offensive player when healthy. He has averaged 19.3 points and 5.3 assists per game over the course of 750 career NBA appearances, with shooting averages of .418/.360/.840. However, he was never an elite defender and his knee issues have exacerbated his struggles on that end of the court, which was a key factor in his lack of recent NBA opportunities.

Walker will be joining an AS Monaco team that finished with a 21-13 record in EuroLeague regular season play last season and advanced to the EuroLeague Final Four. Monaco lost in the first round of the Final Four, but won the third place game.

Mike James, Donatas Motiejunas, Jaron Blossomgame, Donta Hall, and Elie Okobo are among the other former NBA players on Monaco’s roster.

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.”