The Celtics essentially replaced Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker, and former NBA big man Ryan Hollins believes Boston will be better because of the trade-off.
Sure, there are other variables involved with Boston’s offseason — like Al Horford’s departure to the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency — but Hollins explained Thursday on ESPN’s “First Take” why he believes Walker joining the Celtics is the “most underrated move” in the NBA this summer.
“The reason that I say that: Brad Stevens can now coach again,” Hollins said. “And with all due respect, he could not coach Kyrie Irving (and) Kyrie was not fit to lead. And I throw that out, and I have a lot of love for Kyrie — former teammate of mine. He’s got Kobe Bryant problems. Good problems to have. Arguably one of the most talented, if not the most talented player I have ever shared a locker room or played with. And the one thing with Kyrie, and why I say ‘Kobe Bryant problems,’ Kobe was so good that when he looks at the other guys in the locker room — when (Kyrie) looked at (Jayson) Tatum, when he looked at (Terry) Rozier, he goes, ‘Hey man, well here’s the ball, go take over. Because I’m talented enough to do it.’ And when those guys had the ball in their hands, they could not make the same plays that he can make.”
Irving clearly didn’t jell with the Celtics’ young core, and one could argue his return to the lineup this past season after missing Boston’s 2018 playoff run stunted the growth of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, in particular. Walker, who spent his first eight seasons with the Charlotte Hornets organization, is known for his leadership qualities, though, and the 29-year-old’s team-first mentality therefore could be a welcome addition to Boston.
“Brad (Stevens) runs one of the most intricate offenses in the league, but Kyrie is so good, he goes, ‘Hey man, why we running those? Give me the basketball. Let me go to work,’ ” Hollins explained. “Kemba Walker in that system allows Brad Stevens to go out and coach again, allows him to make plays. Similar to who? Another little guy, Isaiah Thomas, who had the Boston Celtics with the No. 1 seed in the East … So I’m looking at that move, brother. Kemba Walker by far the most underrated move.”
Hollins played for nine teams over 10 NBA seasons. He appeared in 15 games with the Celtics during the 2011-12 campaign, which succeeded a stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers in which he played alongside Irving.