Kemba Walker’s eight-year run with the Charlotte Hornets has effectively come to an end, as the All-NBA point guard reportedly agreed over the weekend to sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Boston Celtics. Financially speaking, this deal is substantially less lucrative than the five-year, $221 million “super-max” contract the Hornets reportedly chose not to offer him, as documented by MassLive. But as Walker explained in a recent interview, there was a deeper reason behind his decision to leave Charlotte.
As quoted by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps on Twitter, Walker appeared on SportsCenter on Sunday, where he told host Scott Van Pelt that he had given the Hornets “every single thing” he could offer them during his time with the team. As for his move to Boston, the 29-year-old guard explained that he now wants to play for a team that could consistently contend for an NBA championship.
“Now it’s about competing at the highest level, and we all know Boston is doing that year in and year out. I want to be part of something special in terms of competing at the highest level.”
As explained by Bleacher Report, Walker enjoyed a career-best season in 2018-19, averaging 25.6 points per game as he made All-NBA honors for the first time in his career. He had also stood out as the Hornets’ best player for several seasons, averaging 19.8 points and 5.5 assists since Charlotte made him the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Despite Walker’s contributions, however, the Hornets have had an unremarkable run in the 2010s, only entering postseason play twice during his time with the team and getting eliminated in the first round on both occasions.
Although Walker is expected to fill the vacancy left by Kyrie Irving when he agreed to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, Bleacher Report opined that the Celtics have yet to emerge as a firm contender for next year’s NBA championship. Aside from Walker, the Celtics still have former third overall picks Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as well as a crop of incoming rookies led by former Indiana guard Romeo Langford and former Tennessee power forward Grant Williams. However, Boston will have to find a replacement for former All-Star center Al Horford, who recently agreed to sign a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.
As for the Hornets, the team will be replacing Walker at point guard with the man who had served as Irving’s top backup on the Celtics for the past few seasons. As detailed by USA Today’s Celtics Wire, Walker’s arrival in Boston came via a sign-and-trade deal that would send Terry Rozier to Charlotte. Rozier, who averaged nine points and 2.9 assists per game in the 2018-19 season, will reportedly be signing a guaranteed three-year, $58 million contract with the Hornets once the deal becomes official.