Jayson Tatum believes he played a big role in the Celtics landing Kemba Walker.
Walker agreed to leave the Hornets and sign a four-year, $141 million max contract with the Celtics this summer. Tatum said he spoke with Walker about the team while they were both in Paris, France for a Jordan Brand event.
“I’m very excited,” Tatum said, via ESPN. “I think I had a big part with him coming here. … 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.”
The Celtics entered last season as the favorites to win the East but finished with a 49-33 record and were eliminated by the Bucks in five games in the conference semifinals. They lost Kyrie Irving (Nets), Al Horford (76ers) and Marcus Morris (Knicks) in free agency but added center Enes Kanter, in addition to Walker.
Gordon Hayward is also expected to take a step forward after he struggled last season following a devastating leg injury in 2017-18.
“I just told (Walker) about Boston, the city, the atmosphere, our fans, the culture, the coaching staff,” Tatum said. “I answered all the questions he had. I’m excited, and just ready for the season to start and everybody to be around each other and build some chemistry and just get it going.”
Walker averaged a career-high 25.6 points, along with 5.9 assists, in 82 games for the Hornets last season. He shot 43.4% from the field and 35.6% from 3-point range.
“I’m a winner. I’ve always been a winner,” Walker wrote in a piece for the Players’ Tribune last month. “It’s who I am — or at least who I strive to be — anytime I step foot on the court. And when I think about my future with this team, and how I’m now going to be playing for the Celtics. I mean, that’s why I feel like it’s a match made in heaven.
“I want to win here, badly — and I’m excited to prove myself as that type of player in this league. I want to elevate myself into that Boston winning tradition. I want to get this team back on top.”
“I gave [the Hornets] every single day I could possibly give them. Now, it’s about competing at the highest level …” @KembaWalker tells @notthefakeSVP he wanted to give himself the best chance to make a playoff run. pic.twitter.com/7f3neuZGTO
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 1, 2019
Tatum had a standout rookie season but was inconsistent in 2018-19.