Report: Celtics favored to sign Kemba Walker, who’s apart from Hornets in contract talks

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Kemba Walker and the Hornets have called each other their priorities in free agency. Walker even said he’d take a discount from the super-max contract – projected to be worth $221 million over five years – he’s eligible to sign with Charlotte.

But apparently Charlotte still isn’t offering enough.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Celtics have jumped into the Walker chase after it became apparent Kyrie Irving and Al Horford would depart. Boston can open max cap space by renouncing all its free agents.

Walker would replace Irving at point guard, maintaining a star level at the position. Though less talented than Irving, Walker brings far less drama. It’s easy to see the Celtics making up for the talent drop with better cohesion.

Barring other moves to open cap space, Boston signing Walker would push Terry Rozier into unrestricted free agency. That sounds like what Rozier wants. But by holding Rozier’s matching rights until his qualifying offer gets pulled, the Celtics can keep him as a fallback option until Walker decides.

For Walker, playing in Boston would mean returning to New England after starring in college at UConn. He’d also upgrade supporting casts. The star guard has made the playoffs just twice in eight seasons with Charlotte. The Celtics would be strong favorites to make the postseason and maybe good enough to make a deep run, depending how Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown develop and whom Boston gets at center.

The Celtics’ max offer projects to be worth $141 million over four years. That leaves plenty of room for the Hornets to come over the top – if they so choose. But Charlotte will be capped out and mediocre with or without Walker. With him, the luxury tax becomes a significant concern.

This leak sounds like an attempt to pressure the Hornets into a bigger offer. I’m not sure whether they’ll go for it.

When free agency begins Sunday, Walker can also hear pitches from teams like the Mavericks and Lakers. Walker has specifically said he couldn’t see himself playing for the Knicks, and New York will reportedly roll over cap space if Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard don’t come.

But people sometimes change their minds.