Celtics

Celtics' Kemba Walker embracing, thriving in Team USA leadership role

Celtics' Kemba Walker embracing, thriving in Team USA leadership role

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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Jayson Tatum shouts out Celtics' Kara Lawson for landing Duke head coach job

Jayson Tatum shouts out Celtics' Kara Lawson for landing Duke head coach job

Kara Lawson is pulling a reverse Jayson Tatum.

The Duke women's basketball team announced Saturday it has named Lawson its new head coach, meaning she'll leave her role as a Boston Celtics assistant coach after this season to join the Blue Devils.

The Celtics will be sad to see Lawson go after her lone season as the first female assistant coach in franchise history. But Tatum, who starred at Duke before coming to Boston, approves of her next gig.

From one Tatum "family" to another.

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Lawson technically leaves behind two Duke alumni, as Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye played two seasons for the Blue Devils from 2013 to 2015 before transferring to SMU.

Tatum is a proud supporter of his alma mater -- where he spent just one season in 2016-17 before the Celtics drafted him No. 3 overall -- so his excitement for Lawson is understandable.

Tatum also will be hoping Lawson can help the Blue Devils back on track after they failed to reach the NCAA Tournament last season for just the second time in 25 years.

Celtics' Kara Lawson accepts Duke women's basketball head coach job

Celtics' Kara Lawson accepts Duke women's basketball head coach job

UPDATE (1:40 p.m. ET): Duke officially announced Kara Lawson as its next women's basketball head coach Saturday on social media.

-- End of update -- 

Kara Lawson indeed won't return for a second season with the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics assistant coach has accepted the Duke women's basketball head coaching job, NBC Sports Boston's A. Sherrod Blakely has confirmed. 

The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn first reported Saturday that Lawson accepted the Duke job, which became available after Blue Devils head coach Joanne McAllie announced last week she wouldn't return for a 14th season.

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Lawson made history last July when the Celtics hired her as the first female assistant coach in franchise history. The former University of Tennessee star and 13-year WNBA veteran -- who also served as an ESPN analyst after her WNBA career -- now can add "head coach" to her impressive basketball résumé.

Lawson also will break a barrier at Duke as the first Black head coach in the women's basketball program's history. If her comments last July are any indication, the Virginia native will work tirelessly to restore the Blue Devils to prominence after they failed to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2019.

"My mindset is being the first to do something is great; I want to be the best," Lawson said after joining the Celtics. “I don’t want to be the best of my gender. I want to be the best in the league."

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