Celtics

Enes Kanter details Celtics' chemistry change, Kemba Walker's essential role

Celtics

Enes Kanter wasn't around for the Boston Celtics' tumultuous 2018-19 campaign. But he found out pretty quickly that things didn't end well that season.

"When I visited the Mayor of Boston or when I visited the Governor, they all said the same thing: 'Wow, this year's team is way different than last year's team,' " Kanter said Thursday on The Ringer's "The Bill Simmons Podcast." "I'm like, 'What happened last year that everyone like the Governor and the Mayor and everybody talks about it?' "

Kanter and Kemba Walker joined the Celtics last summer as Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and several players from that 2018-19 squad departed. That roster overhaul provided Boston opportunity for a fresh start after flaming out in the second round of the 2019 NBA playoffs.

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According to Kanter, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens seized on that opportunity in one of his first meetings with the 2019-20 team.

"The important thing for us is to just build that chemistry," Kanter told Simmons. "For us it was so important: The better friends we become, the better teammates we are going to be.

"So, we knew that from day one. Coach Brad said, 'Hey: the important thing is just becoming good friends, always having each other's back no matter what. On the court, whether we're right or wrong, have each other's back.' "

As C's fans have observed, Walker has been instrumental in Boston's improved chemistry: The All-Star point guard has integrated seamlessly with young stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the rest of the roster.

 

That's a testament to Walker's personality, which Kanter insisted was unlike any player of his caliber in the NBA.

Enes Kanter Show: Calming the concern on Kemba | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

"I've played with so many players, it's my ninth year in the league. He is definitely the most humble and down-to-earth superstar that I have seen and played with," Kanter said of Walker. 

"The dude is just good, man. A good human being. Obviously I can't say enough about his game and it's crazy what he does on the court, but off the court, man, he's just a good dude. Very down-to-earth, very humble, always trying to help others, trying to help the rookies out."

The Celtics' ability to get along has produced results: They're the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference entering the restarted season in Orlando and could be a dark-horse NBA title contender if Walker can stay healthy (which admittedly is a big "if").

The simple fact that the Celtics like each other also will go a long way toward their success in the playoffs -- and Kanter is bullish on how far they can go.

"We're just focusing on us, because I feel like we have enough talent in that locker room to beat anybody," he added. "We just need to stay together."