The Boston Celtics have tried to trade Kemba Walker since they exited the bubble last year, with a strong push made at the deadline last February.
Now Walker, frustrated by that lack of loyalty, would like to find a way out of Boston.
The two sides are ready to part ways, Chris Mannix said on NBC Sports Boston this week.
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) June 9, 2021
“The Danny Ainge-led front office has been looking at possibilities of trading Kemba dating back to the end of last season’s bubble experience. From what I told, the Ainge front office saw kind of the writing on the wall in a way with Kemba Walker when it came to his knee. Remember, the knee injury which occurred, I believe in late January of 2020, it was still lingering in the bubble. This is after months and months of being off, and I think the Celtics front office was looking for a way to get out from under that contract. They ultimately were not able to do it despite having conversations with multiple teams over the last several months…
“That frustrated Kemba Walker. Kemba is among the most loyal guys you’re going to find in professional sports. Like, he would still be a Charlotte Hornet if Charlotte had stepped up to the plate during his free agency and made him the highest offer. It wasn’t about going to Boston to chase a championship for Kemba, there was a lot more money on the table. So for Kemba to hear his name and understand his name was in trade rumors, that absolutely has frustrated him over the last six to eight months.”
Mannix isn’t alone here, Farbod Esnaashari of Bleacher Report wrote essentially the same thing, saying Walker and the Celtics are both looking to find a trade that works this offseason.
Walker is far from alone in players frustrated with how Ainge handled them, feeling more like pawns on a chessboard than valuable people and players. Going back to what happened with Isaiah Thomas, a lot of players and agents have been wary of dealings with Boston.
Walker still provides value when he is on the court — 19.3 points and 4.9 assists a game this past season, shooting 36% on 3-pointers and he can get to the rim and create his own shot. That said, his efficiency slipped this past season and his advanced stat numbers across the board — PER, VORP, EPM, even True Shooting % — were the lowest they have been in more than five seasons. Walker was not the All-Star/All-NBA level player he had been for years.
The challenge in trading Walker is the combination of health concerns — Walker missed 29 games this past season, primarily due to knee issues, including sitting out half of back-to-backs — and the fact that he is owed $73.7 million over the next two seasons (the second year of that is a player option, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t pick that up). That’s a lot of money and a lot of risk to take on
Walker is seen as a negative value contract around the league, sources told NBC Sports, and teams talking to Boston about a trade may want sweeteners in the deal.
There are certainly good teams in need of a starting point guard and secondary shot creator this offseason who might be open to a trade — Esnaashari pointed to the Knicks and Mavericks — but actually striking a deal will not be easy.
That said, it appears both Walker and the Celtics are ready to move on from one another. There’s a good chance Walker is not in Celtics green at the start of next season.