BOSTON — When the Boston Celtics start training camp, playing for a new team won’t be the only significant change for Kemba Walker.
The 29-year-old Walker joins a fractured franchise, one in which individual agendas a year ago got in the way of winning.
And the result was an underwhelming season that played a role in several key players leaving to play elsewhere.
Those departures have left a huge void in terms of leadership, a void that Walker seemingly takes steps towards fulfilling every day.
Walker continues to hone his leadership chops with the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team, a team that comprises three of his fellow Celtics teammates — Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum.
One of the more telling signs for Celtics fans that things just might work out from a leadership standpoint with Walker, is him already acknowledging that his youthful teammates have in many ways already come of age when it comes to being an NBA player.
“They’re just some really good young dudes and I just enjoy being around them,” Walker told NBA.com. “And the age difference is really crazy to me. J.T. (Tatum) is like 21 and J.B. (Brown) is 22 and Marcus (Smart) is 25. And I’m 29 and feeling like, wow, this is cool. It sounds crazy. I remember when I was 21 in this league. I was a rookie and just trying to figure it all out. And these guys are young vets already. Like I said, it’s crazy."
Walker’s understanding of where they are in the NBA pecking order and a clear respect for that status, will go far this season as the Celtics look to regain the chemistry we had seen in previous Brad Stevens-coached teams.
As important as it is for Walker to learn how to play with his soon-to-be-new teammates in Boston, they too must adapt to his brand of basketball, which has led to him being a three-time All-Star in addition to being named to the All-NBA Third Team last season.
Walker has shown himself to be an elite scorer in the NBA, but it has been his play at the other end of the floor that has caught Smart’s attention.
“For me, I’ve noticed that Kemba can really play defense when he wants to do it,” Smart said with a chuckle. “You know it’s tough, when you see how much energy he had to exert on the offensive end (in Charlotte), but he’s actually a really good defensive player, especially at his size. He can play defense and you didn’t really see that or notice that because he had so much of a load on him offensively that it was probably harder for him to do that.”
Indeed, the change of scenery will afford Walker to do a number of things on a bigger stage now; among them … his leadership.
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