Celtics

Kemba Walker reportedly had a ‘tension-filled’ relationship with Brad Stevens

Walker was traded to the Thunder on Friday.

Brad Stevens and Kemba Walker reportedly didn't have a good relationship this past season. AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

Kemba Walker’s final season in Boston didn’t go the way anyone wanted it to.

While we knew that the star point guard dealt with a knee injury all season and a drop in his performance, Walker’s problems apparently didn’t end there.

Walker’s relationship with Celtics coach-turned-president Brad Stevens was “tension-filled” this season, The Athletic’s Jared Weiss reported citing team sources. Stevens was “perceived to be harder” on Walker than on the team’s other players, criticizing Walker for his defensive mistakes, according to Weiss. Walker and Stevens did butt heads over the course of the season, however, they had a mutual respect for each other, Weiss added.

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Weiss’s report details dysfunction in the Celtics’ locker room from this past season. He writes that Gordon Hayward told Stevens “he needed to establish a stronger voice with players if they were going to win” prior to his departure to Charlotte. The dysfunction in the locker room was reportedly so bad at one point this season that a player told Blake Griffin to not join the Celtics when he was a free agent.

The Celtics ended the Kemba Walker-era on Friday, shipping him to the Thunder along with a first-round pick for Al Hoford and Moses Brown. The trade was Stevens’s first move since becoming the team’s president of basketball operations earlier in June, making the trade before even hiring a new head coach.

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Walker, who signed a four-year, $141 million deal with the Celtics in 2019, got off on the right foot at the start of his time in Boston. He was the Celtics’ second-leading scorer for the first half of the season, scoring 21.8 points per game en route to an All-Star nod in 2020.

After a long appearance in that year’s All-Star Game, Walker’s time in Boston began to take a turn for the worse. A knee injury kept Walker out in six of the Celtics’ next seven games. When the season resumed in July after the pandemic shutdown, Walker was placed on a minutes restriction due to the knee injury.

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Following the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat, Walker received a stem cell injection in his left knee that kept him out for the first 11 games of the 2020-21 season. The knee injury forced Walker to sit out the back end of games played on back-to-back days this season.

Walker ended up having some of his worst stats in years. His 19.3 points per game and his 42 percent field goal percentage were his lowest since 2015.

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