Installment #26: Kemba Walker Lamentations
This past weekend, matter of fact on Friday June 18, I got a notification from the ESPN app that the Boston Celtics have traded four-time all-star point guard Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Celtics are also moving the sixteenth pick in this year’s NBA draft and a second-round pick in 2025 to the Thunder. In exchange, they will get veteran center Al Horford, young center Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round selection. All I could say when I heard the news was, wow.
It was July, 2019 when Kemba Walker, arguably the best player in Charlotte Hornets franchise history, was dealt to the Boston Celtics for guard Terry Rozier in a sign-and-trade transaction. I was on vacation when I heard that news and I was kind of upset. Once again, the Hornets were not able to keep a great player – the story of our team. I was not surprised though because even with Kemba Walker, the Hornets had at the time missed the playoffs three consecutive seasons. If the Hornets would have paid Walker a max deal, which would have been well-deserved, they would not be able to afford any other potential help and they would still be ending seasons at ninth or tenth place, just missing the playoffs. So, he decided to leave Charlotte and go to Boston, where he would be just one of the stars on a very talented team and hopefully have an opportunity at a championship, something that he most likely was not going to get here in the Queen City.
The 2019-20 Celtics made it to the eastern conference finals before losing to the Miami Heat in six games in the Orlando Bubble. There seemed to still be optimism in Beantown being that they were a couple of games away from an NBA finals appearance. If they could run it back with basically the same team and get to the finals, who knows what could happen?
This past season though, the Boston Celtics were ousted from the playoffs in the first round when they lost to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and the Brooklyn Nets in five games. Kemba Walker, who had been dealing with a lingering knee injury all season, missed the last two games of the series. After the 123-109 loss, Brad Stevens left his head coaching duties and replaced Danny Ainge as president of basketball operations for the Celtics. This was his first big move in his new position as Boston looks to retool and hopefully find their way back to the finals for the first time in more than ten years.
As a Hornets fan, I do still wish we could have kept Kemba Walker in Charlotte. We wouldn’t have Terry Rozier, who ended up being a solid acquisition, but part of me wonders what would have happened if Walker were able to team up with guys like Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, and LaMelo Ball? I feel sorry that as good of a player as Kemba is, he keeps getting traded. But he is getting older and having injury problems and in sports, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. There are some that say he won’t stay in OKC, that he might get moved again. Definitely a story that I’ll be keeping my ears on.