After spending the first eight seasons of his career with the Charlotte Hornets, Kemba Walker signed with the Boston Celtics in the 2019 NBA free agency period, giving the team a capable replacement for Kyrie Irving at point guard. However, as he recently admitted, he strongly considered signing with the New York Knicks and felt they were “definitely a priority” before he decided to sign with their Atlantic Division rival.
“Before Boston actually came along, the Knicks [were] one of my top priorities because I was thinking that they were gonna get another player. But it didn’t work out,” Walker said on The Ringer‘s R2C2 podcast, in a clip that can be viewed here.
According to CBS Sports, Walker “laughed through his answer” when he denied that the unnamed player he was referring to was Kevin Durant, who, like Irving, signed with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2019 offseason. The outlet pointed out that the 2013-14 NBA MVP was widely rumored to be headed to New York during the 2018-19 campaign. However, he eventually admitted in February 2019 that the speculation was largely a product of media hype and that he had never publicly stated that he wanted to join the organization in free agency.
As further speculated, it’s possible that Walker “might have kept an open mind” in the weeks where it appeared to be certain that Irving would be inking a deal with the Nets while Durant’s free-agency decision was still up in the air. However, CBS Sports noted that the four-time All-Star didn’t even meet with New York, which could mean that the organization was “out of the running” at the time the signing period officially began last year.
After observing that Walker appeared to have chosen wisely by signing with Boston, CBS Sports opined that the Knicks might be “better off” for passing on the former University of Connecticut star. The publication wrote that it wouldn’t have made sense for such a young unit with “modest” ambitions for the immediate future to sign a 30-year-old point guard like Walker, especially one who wanted to end up on a winning team.
“If they had landed another star, Walker would’ve been a wonderful sidekick. But given where both sides wound up, Walker joining the Celtics seems like the best decision for everyone.”
Despite seeing a decline in playing time and in most other statistics this season, Walker has enjoyed a productive year for the Celtics, as seen on his Basketball-Reference player page. In 53 games, he has produced averages of 20.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 31.3 minutes per contest, with shooting clips of 42.5 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from three-point range.