Celtics

Can Celtics sell Kemba Walker on Boston as a free-agent destination?

Can Celtics sell Kemba Walker on Boston as a free-agent destination?

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. 

So what about … Kemba Walker?

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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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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AP photo

Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.

KEMBA IN THE FOURTH QUARTER

We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.

BUDDY HIELD 

The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.

TURNOVERS

One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.

SEMI (OJELEYE) AUTOMATIC

Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 

THEIS IS NICE

While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 

LINE ‘EM UP

The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.