Kemba Walker

Kemba Walker sees his role with the Celtics to help Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get 'to another level'

Kemba Walker sees his role with the Celtics to help Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get 'to another level'

BOSTON -- Before Jayson Tatum left the Celtics' 119-95 blowout win over Memphis on Wednesday night with a groin injury, he was the best player on the floor.

Two nights earlier, Tatum was once again in basketball-assassin mode in a 32-point drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers. 

As Tatum went about burying one big shot after another in both games, pushing both Memphis and the Lakers into an abyss that they never could quite escape from, Kemba Walker wasn’t too far away, smiling at the masterful work being put in by his teammate. 

Taking over games is something that Walker has done for most of his career. 

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In Boston, Walker acknowledged he’s looking for company, which is why he encourages Tatum to have a more dominate-the-moment mentality. 

“He just has to become that killer, which he is,” Walker said. “It’s so fun to watch him and Jaylen; it’s so fun to be a part of their growth. But yeah, Jayson, he’s getting better each and every game. I’m just trying to have him embrace when it’s time to take those games over. I always tell him, ‘take over. Go get us this win. Keep scoring.’ he’s gotta become that killer.”

And the path towards having that mercenary-like mindset when it comes to taking games over is what separates good players from the greats. 

Tatum has never been coy about expressing his desire to be among the best in the NBA.

Brown, who has missed three of the past four games with a thumb injury and ankle sprain, has also made his goal of being an elite, two-way player known. 

Both have been instrumental in the Celtics’ success this season which has led to the duo being mentioned prominently as potential first-time All-Stars next month in Chicago. 

Tatum is the Celtics' No. 2 scorer, averaging 21.5 points along with 6.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals per game. 

Brown isn’t too far behind as the No. 3 scorer, averaging 20.0 points per game to go with 6.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. 

And while Walker arrived in Boston with the goal of helping lead the Celtics back to the top of the East, he knows he can’t do it alone. 

He has a killa’s mentality when it comes to playing, an attitude he wants to see more of from Tatum and Brown going forward. 

“These my brothers,” Walker said. “I want to see them succeed. I want them to be at their best. I’ve had a pretty good career so far. But, I’m also here to help and just really get guys to another level. Yeah, that’s what I want to do. I want to be part of things like that. Those two dudes, Jaylen and Jayson to be specific, are really special, very special.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Kemba Walker's impact on Celtics about more than just scoring

Kemba Walker's impact on Celtics about more than just scoring

BOSTON -- When Kemba Walker arrived in Boston, he came with a well-earned reputation for scoring…a lot. 

In eight seasons, he had already amassed enough points to be the Charlotte Hornets' all-time leading scorer.

Still, as we’ve seen this season, there’s more to Walker’s game than lighting up the scoreboard.

The 119-95 win over Memphis on Wednesday night was one of those games, in which Walker’s play highlighted his ability to impact the game in ways that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. 

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The Grizzlies threw a multitude of defensive looks at Walker, leaving him little choice but to play more off the ball in the hope that the attention paid to him would open things up for his teammates. 

Indeed, those around Walker are benefiting by his presence and poise the past two games, both of which saw the Celtics (29-14) win easily and do so by shooting north of 50 percent from the field. 

“He [Walker] did a good job,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “A couple times, he opened up [Daniel] Theis for shots. He opened up other guys for hand-offs because the defense was so sunk. He set a couple of nice back-screens that we didn’t end up converting but…he’s gonna see so many types of defenses.”

The way Walker adapted to the ever-changing tactics of the Grizzlies defensively, served as a reminder as to why he is a three-time All-Star on the cusp of being a four-time selection for the game next month in Chicago. 

“That’s how you know you’re a really good player, is when people throw you a bunch of different looks,” Stevens said. “He handles it really well.”

Walker, who had eight points on 2-for-9 shooting with four assists, three rebounds and two blocked shots, has embraced the fact that he will have nights when the opposing team will make it tougher than usual for him to score the way he’s accustomed to. 

Rather than forcing the issue, Walker makes contributing in other ways - like setting good screens, making the “hockey assist” or blocking shots - a more central part of his game. 

“We have so many threats on the perimeter,” Walker said. “And you know, every night is not going to be a great night for me. The special thing about this team is, multiple guys can have huge nights. When it’s not my night, it’s just not my night. And I’m definitely willing to accept that.

Walker added, “When I’m not playing at my best offensively, I have to do other things in order to help this team win. I just try to bring enthusiasm, energy, just great leadership to the game.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Magic, which begins Friday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

'Healthy Celtics' have been a depressingly rare sight this season

'Healthy Celtics' have been a depressingly rare sight this season

The good news: Monday night was proof that the 2019-20 Boston Celtics can be really, really good when fully healthy.

The bad news: The 2019-20 Celtics are rarely fully healthy.

Monday's 139-107 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers was just the 16th time this season the Celtics' "Big Four" of Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have shared the court together.

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That number will stay at 16 on Wednesday night -- Brown has been ruled out against the Memphis Grizzlies due to an ankle sprain -- meaning the Celtics will have had their "Big Four" active for just 37 percent of their games (16 of 43).

Add in the time Marcus Smart has missed (nine games in December due to an eye infection) and that number drops to 11 games (25 percent) in which the C's have had their five most important players.

"It’s all part of it," head coach Brad Stevens said Wednesday about playing undermanned. "A lot of people are going through it. You deal with it as well as you can. It’s a great opportunity.

"The last game we basically played eight guys in the rotation, but I trust everybody else that didn’t get in. Great opportunity for those guys."

Monday's near-perfect game aside -- Tatum, Walker, Brown and Hayward combined for 83 points -- the Celtics actually have played better shorthanded: They're 10-6 when Walker, Hayward, Tatum and Brown all play and 18-8 when at least one of those players is sidelined.

That's a testament to Smart, who scored 15 points or more in eight of the 12 games Hayward missed earlier this season, and Boston's bench, which has been inconsistent but received timely contributions from the likes of Enes Kanter, Brad Wanamaker and Grant Williams.

"As professionals, we have to be able to adjust," Smart said Wednesday. "Jaylen’s out, that doesn’t mean we have to ... not play the way we’ve been playing. Especially after the Lakers game, we have to continue to strive for that type of game every night, regardless of who’s on the court."

Wednesday presents another test for the "Hospital Celtics," who dropped two games without Brown last week and face a Grizzlies team that's won seven of its last eight games.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Boston has plenty of experience playing with a short bench.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Grizzlies-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.