BOSTON (CBS) — Kemba Walker began a new chapter of his basketball career on Monday. For the first time in his nine-year career, he took part in Media Day festivities for someone other than Charlotte.
The longtime Bobcat/Hornet is now a member of the Boston Celtics, and Walker didn’t need many words to describe his feelings on what lies ahead. It’s rare to see anything but a giant smile on Walker’s face, and his excitement was apparent throughout his session with Celtics reporters on Monday.
“It’s been great. The energy has been nothing short of amazing. Fan love has been amazing. Everyone is so excited, and excited for me, which is a great feeling,” said Walker, adding that he felt like the new kid at school. “I’m excited as well for this new chapter in my career, to be playing for the Celtics of course, a legendary organization. I’m just excited — I can’t put it into too many words.”
A Bronx native and standout at UConn before his NBA days, Walker said there has been one downside to his decision to sign with a team so close to home.
“Too many texts messages, too many phone calls,” he joked.
Walker is as laid back as they come, calm and cool whether he’s on the floor or in the locker room. He’s been lauded for his leadership, during his time at UConn and his near-decade in Charlotte, and he’s ready to bring that — along with some enthusiasm — to Boston. They’re both aspects that the Celtics will welcome with open arms after their disappointing 2018-19 season.
Of course, anyone replacing Kyrie Irving will have some lofty expectations follow them. But Walker isn’t coming to Boston to be Kyrie Irving.
“I’m here to be myself,” he said. “I think I’m pretty easy to get along with, so that transition, and guys being able to like me, will make the transition easier. I’m looking forward to being part of this organization and giving it 100 percent on each and every play and possession that I can.”
Walker said that transition is going well so far, but he hasn’t finished it just yet. He got some early run with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart at the FIBA World Cup, but he still has a lot to learn about his teammates. And the same goes for everyone else in the organization, from coaches to the front office to the training staff.
“I’m just kind of going with the flow,” he said, adding that everyone has helped him along the way.
The expectations for the Celtics as a whole have dipped a bit, following the departures of Irving and Al Horford. They’re no longer being talked about as Eastern Conference favorites, with an outside shot at winning a title. But that could make them all the more dangerous, the kind of teams that Brad Stevens gets the most out of.
“He’s about winning,” Stevens said of his new point guard. “That’s been very clear from the get-go in all of our meetings. This is a team sport and Kemba is about the team.”
Plus, given all the player movement during the offseason, Walker sees a wide open NBA ahead of him and his new team.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Great games every night,” he said. “You’re going to look around and you’re going to be like, ‘I didn’t even know this guy was on this team.’ So much movement. It’s going to be so competitive each and every night this year, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Being competitive each and every night escaped the Celtics last season. It sounds like that will change with Walker now wearing green.