BOSTON - There's a popular gif of wrestling great The Undertaker lying on his back and in an instant, awakens and is alert as ever.
Welcome to the world of Boston Celtics basketball, a franchise that just a couple of weeks ago seemed on the cusp of being knocked out for the count as a playoff contender, to one that now finds itself back in the conversation when it comes to the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
And that change can be summed up in one word … Kemba.
As in Kemba Walker.
NBC Sports Boston has confirmed reports that the three-time All-Star plans to sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Celtics.
Teams can begin negotiating with free agents as early as Sunday at 6 p.m., with no deals becoming official until July 6.
This will be the third time in the last four years that Boston has signed one of the top free agents available.
But this free agent signing is different than the others.
Boston had spent several months (some might say years in one instance) planning out their strategy on how best to proceed in trying to sign Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Not as much time was spent plotting out how to approach Walker who was eligible for a five-year, $221 million contract from the Charlotte Hornets who whiffed on the idea of re-signing the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Boston’s plan this summer at the start was to re-sign Kyrie Irving, but when it became more clear by the day that he was headed elsewhere, the Celtics began to start thinking harder about who would be his replacement.
Celtics restricted free agent Terry Rozier was always an option, but Boston wanted to see if they could find a more ready-made talent to replace Irving.
Soon word began to spread in NBA circles that the Hornets were not going to offer Walker the full super max contract.
But how low would they go?
One league source indicated to NBC Sports Boston that the offer made by Charlotte was more than he would make in Boston, “but not enough for him seriously think about returning to (Charlotte). At best, they might sneak into the playoffs.”
The same source indicated that Walker’s age (29) was also a factor in him wanting to be with a franchise that had a track record of success and that could position him to be part of a team making a deep playoff run - something that never happened in Charlotte and was not going to happen anytime soon if he returned.
“He’s doing this for all the right reasons,” the source said. “He wants to be in a winning environment, good coach, good, solid front-office. The Celtics check off a lot if not all of those boxes, honestly.”
It's too soon to say what the Walker signing means to Boston's position among the top teams in the East.
But at a minimum, Walker's presence will keep the Celtics firmly planted in the conversation as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference along with NBA champion Toronto, Philadelphia and Milwaukee - all of whom have free agents who may leave for other teams in the coming days.
And by adding Walker, we are once again reminded that no matter how down-for-the-count the Boston Celtics may appear to be, this franchise in recent years has consistently found a way to rise to the occasion and make moves that put those bury-the-Celtics funeral processions on hold for a bit.
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