Celtics' Kemba Walker opens up about replacing Kyrie Irving

Celtics' Kemba Walker opens up about replacing Kyrie Irving

Kemba Walker has been everything Boston Celtics fans hoped he'd be when he took over for Kyrie Irving as the team's star point guard.

But before Walker played his first game at TD Garden, there was the obvious pressure of replacing such a talented player in Irving and becoming the new face of the franchise. At least, one would think there would be pressure under those circumstances.

ESPN's Rachel Nichols recently sat down with Walker and talked about his approach to taking Irving's spot. Surprisingly, it isn't really something that has crossed the 29-year-old's mind.

"I never even really thought about it, actually," Walker told Nichols. "I mean, I just know what kind of guy I am. You know, my personality. I can get guys to kind of gravitate toward me. I think I'm a fun guy to be around."

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Walker is averaging 21.8 points, 5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in the 46 games he's played in this season. What's even more impressive, though, is what he contributes to the team outside of the box score.

The improvement in overall team chemistry since Walker replaced Irving has been night and day. He has fit seamlessly in the C's lineup with fellow standouts Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward reaping the benefits of having such a selfless teammate.

It's been a great fit for Walker as well.

"I just kind of be myself. And these guys, you know, allow me to be myself which is probably the coolest thing about it," he said.

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When Walker eventually returns from the knee injury that has sidelined him the last few games, he'll continue to propel the Celtics to and through the NBA playoffs.

Irving, on the other hand, will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury that limited to 20 games in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Rockets-Celtics, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal team up for generous act amid coronavirus pandemic

Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal team up for generous act amid coronavirus pandemic

Jayson Tatum is finding a way to make an impact with his day job on hold.

The Boston Celtics forward has partnered with Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal in pledging to donate a total of $500,000 to Boston- and St. Louis-area food banks.

Tatum made the announcement Monday on Instagram, revealing an initiative with Feeding America and Lineage Logistics called "Share a Meal."

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As this virus continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable.  And while I sincerely pray that everyone is staying safe, healthy and social distancing, the reality is this virus has negatively impacted our families, loved ones and communities in so many ways.  Because of the hardships created through this national health crisis and in an effort to help those in need in the Boston and St. Louis area, I am, through The Jayson Tatum Foundation, partnering with @feedingamerica and @lineagelogistics on their “Share A Meal” campaign.  Together, @lineagelogistics and The Jayson Tatum Foundation are pledging to match $250,000 in the Boston area and, with my good friend and fellow basketball player Bradley Beal, $250,000 in the St. Louis area, to help provide meals through @feedingamerica, @stlfoodbank and @gr8bosfoodbank.  This campaign will help some of the hardest hit communities in Boston and in Brad and my hometown of St. Louis, receive meals.  If you are able to help, I am asking my family, friends,  fans and partners to follow the link in my bio to help make a difference in our communities during a very difficult time. I would especially like to thank all the frontline workers and volunteers who are working around the clock to keep all of us safe and healthy. Together…. we will make a difference. #NBATogether #ActsOfCaring

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Tatum and Beal, who both grew up in the St. Louis area, each pledged to match $250,000 in donations to the Greater Boston Food Bank and the St. Louis Area Food Bank as the coronavirus pandemic threatens food security in both cities.

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"This campaign will help some of the hardest hit communities in Boston and in Brad and my hometown of St. Louis, receive meals," Tatum wrote, asking those who are able to donate to either food bank.

Boston had 1,877 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, more than several U.S. states. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh issued new measures Sunday encouraging all residents to wear a face covering while leaving their homes and instituting a recommended curfew of 9 p.m.

Tatum and Beal's donations are generous gestures as both cities attempt to deal with a virus that already has disrupted many lives.

Tatum had been enjoying a breakout season for the Celtics before the NBA was suspended on March 11, but it sounds like the 22-year-old has his priorities in order with basketball on pause.

UPDATE (1:30 p.m. ET): Tatum was asked about his pledge Monday during a conference call with reporters. Here's what he had to say:

"Just trying to find a way that I could be of some assistance during this time. Always trying to find a way to give back, especially back in St. Louis and, Brad [Beal] is from St. Louis as well, so he teamed up with me to donate to help the people back home in St. Louis, and then to help the city of Boston. That’s how that came about."

Celtics star Jayson Tatum reveals one of his favorite rookie moments

Celtics star Jayson Tatum reveals one of his favorite rookie moments

For many NBA rookies, it can be pretty awe-inspiring to compete against star players who you've admired all your life.

It sure sounds like Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum felt this way when he played against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road as a rookie during the 2017-18 season.

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The Thunder, at that time, had a veteran-laden roster that included star forwards Paul George and Carmelo Anthony -- two versatile wings with an offensive game similar to Tatum's. Tatum recently talked about his favorite rookie moments, and he mentioned a quick interaction with Anthony that really hit him.

The Celtics trailed the Thunder by 18 points at halftime that night, but thanks to a 22-point second half performance from point guard Kyrie Irving, Boston prevailed with a 101-94 victory to extend its win streak to seven games. Tatum scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in 30 minutes of action.

The admiration between Tatum and Anthony goes both ways. Earlier this year, Anthony said he loves watching Tatum play and noted the Celtics forward is "like a little brother to me."

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Tatum had a brilliant rookie campaign and helped lead the Celtics to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The 22-year-old forward has taken a huge step toward superstardom in the current 2019-20 season, during which he made his first NBA All-Star Game appearance in February. He also won Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February after averaging 30.7 points per game over that stretch.

If Tatum's career trajectory keeps rising, he could someday be a veteran superstar who rookies are really excited to play against for the first time.