BOSTON -- So you’re saying there’s a chance?
The Boston Celtics are in need of a major jolt of talent in what’s expected to be major defections in the coming days.
The Celtics, I'm told, are emerging as a stealth suitor for Charlotte Hornets free agent Kemba Walker— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 25, 2019
The Charlotte Hornets can offer Walker significantly more money than any team once he officially hits free agency on Sunday (more than $221 million), the kind of money that would be difficult for anyone to walk away from.
For the Boston Celtics, it’s a similar situation they were in during the summer of 2016 when they were in pursuit of Al Horford — who, like Walker, had spent his entire NBA career with one team.
Boston sold Horford on the Celtics’ title-contending future with him being a significant part.
They can’t play that card this time around.
But considering who they are targeting (Walker) and the situation he has been in with the Hornets, you don’t really have to make that kind of pitch in order to convince Walker that Boston is a better situation than the one he is currently in basketball-wise.
In Walker’s eight seasons with the Hornets, they have been to the playoffs just twice and have been bounced in the first round both times with no team winning more than 48 games in a season.
And while there is a clear gap between what Boston can do money-wise for Walker and what the Hornets can do, Boston can counter that by offering Walker something Charlotte can’t come close to matching: hope of being part of a title-contending team.
Since Boston won it all in 2008, they have had teams that have either been in the hunt for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, or on the fast track to getting back in the race quickly.
That’s why, while disappointed with how last season ended as well as the departure of key players, the Celtics have a quiet confidence that everything will work out for the better because based on their track record in recent years, that’s what has transpired.
Walker has made it clear that he loves Charlotte, Hornets fans and how the organization has treated him. But the 6-foot-1 guard also loves to win, something he has done very little of while playing for Charlotte.
And while it’s obvious that the Celtics are not presently a title-contending team, Walker knows as well as anyone how quickly Ainge has wheeled and dealed his way into building a title-contender in no time.
At 29 years of age, Walker has to be giving more thought now than ever about his future, and will he ever get a shot at playing for a legit title contender.
Because even if he re-signs with Charlotte, they are at best among the bottom/middle-of-the-pack squads fighting for one of the last remaining playoff spots.
Even with Irving likely headed to Brooklyn and Horford expected to sign on with another team, Boston still has a better present and future than the Hornets.
And for Walker, that’s something he has to take notice of.
Throw in the fact that his best days as a basketball player came in New England as the leader of UConn’s 2011 National Championship team — the team that beat Brad Stevens and Butler in the national title game that year — and you have a recipe for the Celtics to at least have a shot at making a strong case for Walker to walk away from Charlotte.
And when you look back at the comments Danny Ainge made after the introduction of the team’s most recent draft picks on Monday, the talk about being humble, doing what’s best for the team, yada-yada-yada… it sounds like he was checking off a lot of the boxes associated with Walker.
Of course it is a long shot in every sense of the word that Boston can convince Walker to leave that amount of money on the table for a chance to be part of the Celtics’ next wave of title contenders.
But for Walker, knowing in his heart of hearts that this season will likely end the way most have for him if he goes back to Charlotte — with no playoff appearance — Boston’s chances, while slim, are very real nonetheless.
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