Kemba Walker endeared himself to a lot of longtime Boston Celtics fans when he elected to wear No. 8, giving new life to all those old Antoine Walker jerseys that had been collecting dust in closets across New England.
At his formal introduction on Wednesday at the Auerbach Center, Kemba joked about the difficulty in finding a number in Boston.
"It was hard. There’s no numbers available. Every number is retired,” said Kemba, offering a familiar lament of Celtics newcomers. "But the reason I took 8 was because my birthday is May 8, and 8 was available. So I just went with it. But it’s cool to wear Antoine Walker’s number. I spoke to him and he gave me the blessing as well, so I’m excited.”
In the spirit of the No. 8-wearing Walkers, here’s eight more leftover thoughts and nuggets after Kemba and Enes Kanter were formally introduced at the Auerbach Center.
1. 3N3S KANT3R?
The Celtics want Kanter to soar with strengths, especially cleaning up on the glass and generating second-chance points. But the 27-year-old big man knows he must modify his game a bit, particularly in coach Brad Stevens’ offense.
“The league is changing and you’ve gotta change with the league,” said Kanter. "Now you see the back-to-the-basket players — you don’t really see a lot of it any more. So that’s why the league is changing, so that’s why this summer one of my plans was to just add that to my game. I think it’s very important to just stretch the floor. It will be amazing, I think. And then Coach gives me confidence, so that’s going to make me feel comfortable out there to start taking it.”
Later he quipped, "Aron Baynes, Al Horford, they become a splash brother, so I think it could change for me, too. I believe it."
Kanter is a career 29.4 percent 3-point shooter but has only hoisted 143 triples in his eight-year career.
2. MAKING A POINT
It was interesting to hear Walker cite how the success of Boston’s previous point guards under Stevens was a key selling point to why he thought he could thrive here.
"The point guards are very successful. They score a lot,” Walker said with a chuckle. “But, yeah, the point guards are very successful. [Stevens is] a great coach. I know he watches tons of film. I’ve just been around him a few days and I know that. But I’m excited. I’m excited to get things going and learn him some more, him learning me more.
"I only got a chance to play against him so there’s still a lot that we both have to learn from each other, but we’ll get there. There’s nothing more important to me than having a great relationship with the head coach, so we’ll get there.”
The successes of Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving has clearly left other score-first point guards intrigued by Boston. The lingering question, of course, is how much did Horford’s presence make it easier for those guards, and can Boston’s new batch of bigs help Walker become an even more efficient player here.
3. SUMMER SUMMER SUMMERTIME
Danny Ainge raised eyebrows when he noted that developing camp invite Tacko Fall is a “high priority” for the Celtics but he praised many of the key contributors to Boston’s summer squad.
"I thought Robert Williams played really well in summer league and will be able to contribute this year,” said Ainge. "I think that Grant Williams played really well this year in the summer league and can help us in some capacity. Same with [second-round picks] Carsen [Edwards] and Tremont [Waters] also. Tremont was good.
"Javonte Green, I don't know what is ahead in his future but he played really well for us in this summer too and he's proven he can find a good role in the NBA too if that's what he wants.”
The Celtics have an open roster spot that could be utilized to add a summer standout — whether one from their squad or elsewhere. Waters and Max Strus were ticketed for two-way deals but either could be converted to the full-time roster if Boston wanted a two-way spot for another player.
4. BONJOUR, VINNY!
Earlier this week, the Celtics made official the signing of French big man Vincent Poirier, who inked a two-year, $4.6 million pact. Ainge offered a brief scouting report on the 25-year-old center.
"Vincent is a — he’s just a 7-foot-1, 9-4 ½ standing reach, active, athletic player,” said Ainge. "So he’s just another big body for us, with some things that we need to fine tune. In our frontcourt, I think that he’s going to have a chance.”
The Celtics accentuated Poirier’s rebounding numbers in international play when they announced his signing and that aspect of his game could help him earn time given the lack of pure size in Boston’s new-look frontcourt.
5. TRAVELING VIOLATION?
Kanter avoided trips to London and Toronto last season out of fear he might be arrested or harmed after being an outspoken critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Asked about his travel situation for the upcoming season, Kanter expressed hope he could make the trips to Toronto.
"When I was in Portland, one of the conversations was, if we made the NBA Finals, if I could travel to Toronto or not,” said Kanter. "In Portland, U.S. Senator Mr. Ron Wyden sent a letter to the Canadian government and they said, 'We don’t see an issue to come into our country.’ So I’m actually going to meet with Senator [Ed] Markey next week and I’m going to talk to him about some of the issues. I don’t think it will be a problem, but we’ll see.”
6. 11 WANTS TO MEET 12
Like many athletes that arrive in Boston, Kanter would like to meet the quarterback that plays down I-95.
“I’m actually a very big fan of Tom Brady,” said Kanter. "I actually want to meet him but I wasn’t going to say it in a press conference. But I’m like, ‘Should I do it or not?’ But I’m definitely a big fan of him and I would love to meet him. What he does on and off the court is amazing, not just for football, for sports.
"So if he’s listening right now, I want to meet you, my man.”
Given Brady’s social media explosion in recent years, the two could seemingly be fast friends.
7. THE HORFORD CONUNDRUM
Ainge wondered out loud if Horford might have given stronger consideration to a Boston return if he had known Walker would be joining the team.
"I don’t know if Al makes the decision he makes if he knows that Kemba is coming,” said Ainge. "I have no idea if that makes [things different] — but that’s how free agency is, sometimes you gotta make decisions before you know other certainties. But I’m not worried about that. We just have two new guys that have chosen to come play for us that really want to be here and we wish them well. I’m grateful for Al and Kyrie choosing to come play in Boston and grateful for all that they gave us.”
The Celtics would have needed to do some serious cap gymnastics, and likely part with draft assets to entice the Nets to do a sign-and-trade, but there was still a slim possibility of retaining Horford after the team nabbed a Walker commitment. But that ship might have sailed.
“Once we felt like we had Kemba, and we talked with Al’s agent, and talked with him about the circumstance, it was made clear where we were,” said Ainge. "But I think a decision had already been made.”
8. IT’S ABOUT TO BE CRAZY, K
Walker admitted the NBA summer of 2019 was pretty wild but he thinks it could lead to some very intriguing basketball next season across the league.
"It’s been crazy. It’s been fun. It’s been fun to watch,” said Walker. "A lot of changes. I think a lot of basketball fans are really excited about a lot of teams — I guess I could use the word, ‘Even.' It’s just a lot more open. A lot of guys are going to other teams and it’s fun. It’ll be fun.”
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