Kemba Walker joined the Celtics during the summer of 2019. But how close was he to joining the Knicks instead?
“Pretty close,” Walker said during his introductory news conference with New York.
Walker grew up in The Bronx, N.Y., and played some of the best basketball of his career in Madison Square Garden during the 2011 Big East Tournament. Going to the Knicks would seem natural, right?
Yes, but Walker wanted to be joined by another superstar in New York. Kevin Durant was his top option, as Marc Berman of the New York Post reports.
According to an NBA source, Walker wanted to team with Kevin Durant when the Knicks had cap space for two max players.
That didn’t end up happening. Durant instead signed with the Nets to pair with Kyrie Irving. And once that happened, the Knicks and Walker decided it wasn’t a good idea to team up, per Berman.
When Durant and Irving ultimately signed with the Nets, the Knicks and Walker mutually agreed it was not a good idea to bring him to New York without another current All-Star.
Walker then decided to sign with the Celtics to replace Irving and join a Boston squad that was coming off a disappointing loss in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Bucks. However, they were just a year removed from taking the LeBron James-led Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals with Irving sidelined.
Of course, Walker’s time in Boston didn’t go too well. He helped the Celtics reach the Eastern Conference finals during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 NBA season that ended in “The Bubble,” but he struggled with a knee injury the next year. He averaged 19.9 points and 4.8 assists per game in two seasons with the Celtics before being traded to the Thunder.
After Oklahoma City bought him out, Walker finally landed in New York City and will now look to round back into form and help the Knicks become a contender.
New York went 41-31 last year and surprisingly finished with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference. Julius Randle has developed into an All-Star talent while Tom Thibodeau brought a new defensive intensity to the team. They’re hoping that Walker, 31, can stay healthy and provide a solid scoring option at point guard to complement Randle.
But whatever happens, Walker is just glad that he is getting a chance to represent his hometown team.
“My guys, my home team, the Knicks, they believed in me,” Walker said during his news conference. “And I’m here now. Whatever happened in the past is irrelevant at this point.”
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