Celtics

‘Those are my brothers’: Here’s what Kemba Walker said about facing the Celtics

"He was warm, he was accepting, he allowed me to be myself."

Kemba Walker Celtics
Kemba Walker of the New York Knicks reacts with RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks during the first half against the Boston Celtics. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If NBA schedule-makers hoped for bad blood between Kemba Walker and the Celtics when they made a meeting between Walker and his old team one of their marquee Opening Night matchups on Wednesday, they were sorely disappointed.

Walker, who spent two years in Boston before he was traded this summer, greeted all of his teammates warmly before the game.

“Smartie! What’s up my boy,” Walker said, embracing Marcus Smart, before shouting, “Ahhhhh! How you doing bro?” when he saw Grant Williams, his roommate in Charlotte during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The Celtics traded Walker to the Thunder for Al Horford this summer after signing the former Hornets guard to a max contract in 2019. The Thunder bought out the remainder of Walker’s contract, and he inked a deal with his hometown Knicks in August.

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Walker — who was brought on to replace the departed Kyrie Irving — struggled to stay on the court for the first time in his career when he arrived in Boston, but his energy and attitude made an enormous impact on his teammates.

“Kemba, first, that’s my guy, man,” Jaylen Brown said after the game. “Can’t say enough good things about Kemba Walker. He’s just one of those guys that you like to be around. Kemba was great for me and my time in Boston. He was warm, he was accepting, he allowed me to be myself. Some guys get envious of things like that, not Kemba Walker, man.

“So I’m very grateful for the time I spent and things I got to learn. It was great sharing the floor with him, I’m happy for him being in his hometown. I said hello to his family, his mom was at the game, so it was great.” 

Walker, meanwhile, didn’t feel weird facing his old team.

“Maybe if I was somewhere else it would’ve been weird,” he said. “But, being that I’m with the home team, nah, it wasn’t weird. I just felt like everybody just kind of had my back, you know? My teammates, the city, the fans, everybody. It wasn’t weird.

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“I have a lot of love for those guys. You could see it before the game. I have a great relationship, man. I just came from the locker room with those guys, talking to those guys. Those are my brothers. Those are my brothers. Over the last two years, we became really close. So for me being on a different team, it’s not going to change anything.”

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