Despite losing Kyrie Irving in the 2019 NBA free agency, the Boston Celtics refused to undergo another rebuild this summer. Instead of getting younger, the Celtics decided to surround franchise cornerstones Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown with quality veterans who can help them remain competitive in the Eastern Conference in the 2019-20 NBA season. By engaging in a sign-and-trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets, the Celtics succeeded in finding Irving’s replacement in All-Star point guard, Kemba Walker.
When the 2018-19 NBA season officially came to an end, the popular belief around the league was that Kemba Walker would be signing a maximum contract to stay with the Hornets, so many people were surprised when he left Charlotte to start a new journey in Boston. In an interview with Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Jayson Tatum revealed that he played a “big part” in recruiting Walker to the Celtics in the 2019 NBA free agency.
“I’m very excited,” Tatum said. “I think I had a big part with him coming here. I was with him in Paris. I never told him to come, but I told him I would love for him to join the team and told him how it was. Obviously, everybody has to do what’s best for themselves, and I’m happy for him.”
During their conversation, Jayson Tatum said that he didn’t directly ask Kemba Walker to join the Celtics. Tatum just told Walker what it feels like to play in Boston and shared his own experience about the atmosphere, their fans, the culture, and the coaching staffs.
“I think I had a big part with him coming here.” Jayson Tatum discusses recruiting Kemba Walker, playing for Team USA, Kyrie Irving’s departure and more. https://t.co/ZOo6qU16Ng
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) August 1, 2019
All the things Jayson Tatum said are true. As a matter of fact, Kemba Walker said similar things in his interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN last month, where the All-Star point guard revealed that Tatum influenced his decision to choose the Celtics over the Hornets in the 2019 NBA free agency.
“We spoke for quite some time,” Walker told MacMullan. “When we left Paris and the days went on and [free agency] came and I made my decision, a lot of it was because of him.”
The departure of Kyrie Irving has undeniably hurt the Celtics, especially knowing the trade assets they gave up just to acquire him from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2017. However, losing Irving could be a blessing in disguise for the Celtics. Kemba Walker may not be on the same level as Irving, but he could end up being a better teammate and leader to Celtics’ young superstars like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.