Kemba Walker reportedly had issues with Brad Stevens, but the feeling might not have been mutual.
The Celtics on Friday traded Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a salary dump that also included a reunion with Al Horford. In the days since the trade, there have been multiple reports indicating Walker soured on playing in Boston for multiple reasons, including an iffy relationship with his then-head coach.
On Monday, Stevens, now the Celtics president of basketball operations, discussed the deal.
“It is difficult … because I really like Kemba — period, like, end of story,” Stevens told reporters. “He is a super likable person. And, again, I think the deal was made … We had to look at, with the idea of moving that first-round pick this year, it gave us the opportunity to look at a road ahead with a few more options from a financial flexibility standpoint. And it was the best deal that we thought (the Celtics could get), with regard to returning players.
“The opportunity to add Al, who makes significantly less money but is a really good player that has corporate knowledge of this environment, that is really excited to be back in Boston and has a good feel for not only playing with our guys, but also has made them better. And I think that his ability to pass, his ability to play a couple of positions, but certainly stretch the floor against bigs. … His impact on others and his ability to lift others is one of his great strengths. To have the ability to get that in return and gain financial flexibility moving forward … the cost was a person that you really, really like and one first-round pick.”
Time will tell whether the Celtics were wise in making this trade, even if it was the only decent one available to them.
Regardless, Boston’s once-promising marriage with Walker didn’t end the way the team or the player envisioned it would.