Celtics

Will Kemba Walker-Boston Celtics union have Happily Ever After ending?

Will Kemba Walker-Boston Celtics union have Happily Ever After ending?

BOSTON -- Kemba Walker is all smiles right now. So is Danny Ainge, and Brad Stevens, and Wyc Grousbeck and … pretty much everyone associated with the Boston Celtics right now. 

But if you hit the rewind button to a couple years ago, there was a similar vibe of optimism surrounding the program as we all sat and watched Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward trotted out before the media in what many thought would be the perfect marriage. 

No need to dwell on Hayward’s injury anymore than we have, or Irving’s decision to leave Boston for Brooklyn this summer. 

For a myriad of reasons, things didn't work out.

And while the positive, upbeat vibe we have now is very similar, there’s a strong sense that this Walker-to-Boston marriage has a better shot at a Happily Ever After ending. 

That’s because Walker, more than anything else, is wired very differently than Irving. 

While he led UConn to a national title as a senior in 2011, Walker didn’t come into the NBA with nearly as much fanfare or expectations as Irving, who was the top overall pick in the 2011 draft — eight spots ahead of Walker after having played just 11 games at Duke. 

And it is that perpetual chip on his shoulder that never goes away, constantly drives Walker to prove his naysayers wrong and for the Celtics, provides them the kind of leadership that at this point in time their talented but fragile roster desperately needs. 

I asked Walker during his introductory press conference on Wednesday to describe his brand of leadership.

While initially indicating that it all depends on the situation, Walker soon added, “I’m not a rah-rah kind of guy. If I have something to say, I’m gonna say it. I feel like if I’m doing something, if I’m working hard,I feel like that’s how guys have to be. Chemistry is important. A team has to be together. That’s one thing throughout my career, I try to do team activities, small things like that.” 

And it is the small things that Walker knows all too well add up to success, the kind of success that has eluded him for most of his NBA career. 

Of the 14 lottery picks from Walker’s 2011 draft class, he is one of nine that have been in the NBA for each of the past eight seasons. 

But only one of those nine has yet to ever make it out of the first round of the playoffs — that would be Walker. 

So for Walker, coming to Boston is about more than just playing for a team where he’ll be the face of the franchise for years to come. 

It’s about exorcising some basketball demons that have haunted him for most of his professional basketball career. 

That’s why as much as the Celtics need Walker to be that difference-making, high-impact scorer we saw named to the All-NBA Third team last season, he needs the Celtics just as much to finally get over that playoff hump that more than anything else, has kept him on the outside looking in on those conversations that center around the best guards in the NBA. 

Because talent-wise, Walker is right up there with the best of them. 

But the wins haven’t been there, something he seems poised to change now that he’s a Celtic. 

For someone who has suffered as many losses as he has through the years, this change of scenery to Boston from Charlotte may be exactly what Walker needs to keep on smiling. 

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Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter shows big support for 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall in latest tweet

Enes Kanter seems to be a fan of Boston Celtics' 7-foot-7 rookie Tacko Fall.

Kanter posted a video to Twitter of Fall practicing at Auerbach Center, and he took time to praise Fall's efforts on Twitter.

The Celtics' signed Kanter to a two-year $10 million deal back in July, while Fall entered Boston's system as an undrafted free agent but he impressed in the Las Vegas Summer League. Kanter is the replacement for Al Horford, who left the Celtics over the summer for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The two should be a great duo for the Celtics, as both have the height and skill to be something special this coming season.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Countdown to Celtics Camp: Record predictions for the 2019-20 campaign

Entering training camp a year ago, expectations were sky-high for the Celtics. Most pundits considered them the team to beat in the East. Vegas fancied Boston as a 59-win team, the second-highest win total behind only Golden State. And a Finals matchup between those two teams was far from a pipe dream.

Fast forward a year and expectations have been tempered. The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars this summer in Kyrie Irving and Al Horford and, despite signing another in Kemba Walker, the team finds itself widely considered a Tier 2 team in the East behind projection darlings Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

So what happens this year? Do the Celtics go back to being the sort of overachievers that have defined Brad Stevens’ coaching career? Will a younger roster struggle to simply meet even the lowered expectations of this season?

To wrap up Week 1 of our Countdown to Camp series, we asked our NBC Sports Boston panel to look into their crystal balls and predict not only Boston’s final win-loss record but how far they’d advance in the playoffs.

The  Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook projects Boston at 49.5 wins this season. The Bucks (58) and Sixers (55) top the Westgate projections and the next five teams all reside in the west. 

The Celtics went 49-33 last season, settling for the fourth seed in the East. They swept the Victor Oladipo-less Pacers in Round 1 but bowed to the top-seeded Bucks in five games in Round 2.

When you consider that Westgate’s four lowest win totals reside in the East (Knicks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Hornets) and seven East teams sit below 40 wins, it feels like the Celtics should reasonably win 50+ games despite the roster changes.

So we’ll put the Celtics at 52 wins and a spot in the East semifinals. That seeding would likely mean a second-round matchup jousting with either Giannis’ Bucks or Embiid’s Sixers and Boston’s frontcourt development might dictate just how competitive those series could be. Remember, too, Stevens tends to produce his best magic when you least expect it.

The irony, of course, is that the Celtics could win 49 games this season and get bounced in Round 2 again but if they develop chemistry and are more enjoyable to watch then last year’s gang, then Celtics fans will be far more OK with that script playing out a second time — well, so long as players make the sort of strides that suggest more is possible in the coming years.

Abby Chin: 50-32 Eastern Conference Finals

I think purely based on better chemistry and grit, this team will improve on last year’s win total. And, I’ll bank on some luck in the playoff bracket. Maybe with injuries, or regular season Al Horford, Philly and Milwaukee fall to the 2 and 3 seed so the Celtics could avoid them in the first couple rounds.

 

A. Sherrod Blakely: 50-32, East Finals

I'm gonna keep the cookies on the bottom shelf with this one. They are a better team (team not individuals) than they're going to get credit for, and they have a roster that's full of talent with a huge chip on their shoulders from the coach on down. This group will play harder, smarter and win a lot of games they probably shouldn't and by doing so, keep Celtics fans extremely happy all season.

Max Lederman: 51-31, lose in 2nd round

Before last season the Celtics have always overachieved under Brad Stevens. I expect a return to that with lowered expectations this season. The Celtics also had their worst record vs winning teams last year since Brad's 2nd season. They should put up a better fight this season.

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