Celtics

Kemba Walker advised Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown ‘to love each other’ during rough patches

The former Celtics star "was really proud" of what Tatum and Brown accomplished last season.

Kemba Walker was proud of his former teammates as they reached the NBA Finals last season. Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo

It wasn’t so long ago that the Celtics were struggling to consistently win games with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as their two top players.

The Celtics went 36-36 in the 2020-21 season, a year after advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, despite Tatum and Brown being named All-Stars that season. In the following season, they began 25-25 through the first 50 games of the year.

Of course, the Celtics turned it around last season after the .500 start through 50 games, breaking through to reach the NBA Finals where they lost to the Warriors. But as the Celtics failed to string it together in the 2020-21 season and into the following year, questions grew louder and louder as to whether or not Tatum and Brown were a suitable duo.

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Former Celtics Kemba Walker, who played with Tatum and Brown in Boston for two seasons, said he gave the young stars a message through all the struggles after he joined the team as a veteran All-Star in 2019.

“I remember me telling those guys, because they’ve always seen the talks and everybody saying they can’t play with each other, I always told them just block that out. I always told them, this organization isn’t going nowhere without you two, literally,” Walker told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod.” “My main thing to those guys was that they have to love each other. Jayson and Jaylen, you two guys have to come together as much as you can and lead this team to the promised land. They can’t go anywhere without those two guys.”

Walker was traded from Boston to Oklahoma City after the 2020-21 season for Al Horford before getting bought out and signing with the Knicks, so he wasn’t around for Tatum and Brown’s breakthrough last season. He was still proud to see the duo playing well to help the Celtics reach the Finals.

“Those two guys are so special and they showed it, they showed it,” Walker said. “I was really proud of those guys because we definitely had some great convos between the three of us a lot. I’m not trying to take credit or anything of that nature because those two guys are just two special talents and special people. They made it work. It was really, really cool to see those guys in the championship last season.”

As the Celtics have continued to thrive, Walker’s NBA career has gone in the other direction. The Knicks sat the point guard for the final months of last season before trading him to the Pistons in a move to clear salary. Detroit ended up waiving Walker before the season.

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Walker dealt with left knee injuries since the second half of his first season in Boston, slowly seeing a dip in play after the issues came up. Even though he was traded two seasons into his contract and was moved to a team that was viewed as one of the worst in the league while dealing with a knee injury, Walker doesn’t hold any ill will toward the Celtics.

“I know how this league works,” Walker said. “They treated me really well, that’s something I can definitely say. But I know the situation was because of my knee.”

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