Kemba Walker opened up about his decision to sign with the Celtics in free agency after spending his entire eight-season NBA career with Charlotte.
During his time with the Hornets, he led his team to two playoff appearances and made three All-Star teams. He also earned third-team All-NBA honors, making him eligible to receive a $221 million supermax extension over five seasons.
Walker made it known that his “first priority” was re-signing with the Hornets and he was willing to signing a deal less than the supermax amount. But the Hornets’ offer was just under $160 million over five years, according to The Athletic, which cited unidentified sources.
He ended up signing a four-year, $140.8 million contract with the Celtics as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Hornets.
“Tough days, f—ing tough days, I can’t even lie,” Walker told The Athletic. “Excuse my language. It was difficult. I couldn’t see myself just being on another team. It was just hard. That’s all I’ve known was Charlotte. Definitely some tough times. I had a feeling that I wasn’t going to get the offer that I wanted, and maybe not close to it, because of cap space.
“I had to get my head wrapped around the feeling and picking another team.”
Walker said he wasn’t disappointed in the Hornets’ offer because he understands it’s just part of the business.
“I’m not mad at MJ [Hornets owner Michael Jordan] or the organization for anything. I understand it,” Walker said. “You have to look at both sides at the end of the day. Could MJ have went over the luxury tax? Yeah, he could have. But why?
“At the end of the day, you have to see both sides of it. That’s what helped me wrap my head around not being around Charlotte anymore. I loved Charlotte. I had to shift my mindset more as free agency got close. I had some priorities and places I wanted to go and didn’t want to go if I didn’t stay in Charlotte, and that’s when Boston even came on the scene.”
Walker knows the Celtics will look different without veteran guard Kyrie Irving, but he said that doesn’t add any pressure to his first season with Boston.
“I’m not trying to go in and think that I have to be better than Kyrie last year,” Walker said. “It happens. Great players go to teams all the time and it just doesn’t work. It just didn’t work for him. Kyrie is one of the best players we have in this world. It was just unfortunate, an unfortunate season.
“I’m not coming in thinking I’m going to be better. I’m coming in to do my job, play my part and do what I can to elevate these guys as much as possible. Do what I can to help the team, to contribute to winning. These guys, they’ve been winning for years. I want to be part of that.”