BOSTON — Having survived eight seasons in Charlotte — which is a great city to live in, but leaves a lot to desire when it comes to playing championship-caliber NBA basketball — Kemba Walker was among those far removed from hitting the panic button when his new team, the Boston Celtics, lost a season-high three games in a row last week.
That’s because when it comes to losing skids, there are few players on this Celtics roster who understand how to navigate the emotional roller coaster of losing over and over and over again like Walker.
As a rookie during the 2011-2012 season, Walker was part of a Charlotte team that lost a franchise-record 23 straight games, which ranks as the fifth-longest losing streak in NBA history.
The following season, Charlotte lost 18 in a row, which also ranks among the all-time longest losing streaks in league history.
“Those first couple years … tough,” Walker told NBC Sports earlier this season.
As much as Walker is praised for how well he has contributed to the Celtics (27-11) winning at a level few anticipated based upon their offseason moves and defections, the way he carried himself during the team’s recent three-game losing streak — which ended on Saturday with a blowout win over an injury-depleted New Orleans team — says a lot about him as well.
Walker has made it clear that he’s here in Boston to win as much as possible, but he’s also well-versed on the reality that struggles, even for good teams, are part of the journey.
“In high school, college, the NBA, I’ve seen it all,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston earlier this season. “I know what it’s like to win at the highest level. I know what it’s like to lose games — a lot of games. You have to try and keep it all in perspective, keep trying to get better.”
And that self-improvement mantra has given him a perspective that has only strengthened his ability to lead this team in ways we have not seen in years.
Much has been made of how different he is leadership-wise in comparison to his predecessor, Kyrie Irving, who is now in Brooklyn.
But as you start to look at some of the franchise’s most established leaders of the past decade or so, it’s clear that Walker has a way about him that’s his and his alone … and it’s working.
He came to Boston from a losing situation similar to how Kevin Garnett left Minnesota in 2007, but there's one huge difference.
Garnett’s arrival changed the Celtics’ culture.
He has only made the Celtics culture stronger, the kind of distinction that has allowed Walker to continue to be a dynamic, All-Star caliber talent for Boston while leaving enough room on the mantle of superstardom for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to continue making strides in that direction without it being an issue or disrupting what the ultimate goal for this team is — and that’s to win as many games as possible.
Walker has no problem embracing his younger teammates who he readily admits have a lot to learn but also a lot to offer to veterans such as himself.
“Yeah, there are things I’ve done that they haven’t, like being an All-Star and all that,” Walker said. “But these guys have gone deep into the playoffs, played really, really well on a big stage in the NBA. I definitely appreciate and respect what they’ve done; hopefully we can do more of that this year.”
But the road to achieving that kind of deep, playoff success won’t be a smooth one.
There will be adversity, injuries and a litany of anticipated as well as unforeseen obstacles that will only increase the degree of difficulty.
But within those struggles emerges a blueprint for success, a blueprint that has Kemba Walker’s name written all over it.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pistons-Celtics, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.