Jaylen Brown sounded downright wistful of his days as Kemba Walker’s teammate, and said he believes believes The Bronx native is going to thrive with the Knicks.
Hours before the two teams were set to meet at the Garden in the regular-season opener, the Celtics All-Star forward said he believes Walker has a lot left at the age of 31 despite questions about his problematic knees.
“It was such a joy having Kemba around,” Brown said, fondly recalling how much Walker helped him in their two seasons together.
“He was one of the people I drew inspiration from,” Brown added. “Definitely miss him, miss his energy around. I think it was a surprise to everybody [when he got traded]. … I wish Kemba the best in his journey, I know he’s got a lot left in the tank, and I’m excited for him in his hometown.”
When asked why Walker’s time with the Celtics wasn’t more productive, Brown disagreed with the premise. He pointed to the Celtics reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season and how well Walker played that year in getting selected to the All-Star game, averaging 20.4 points, 4.8 assists and shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
“I think it did work,” said Brown, who was expected to play after missing most of the last few weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.
“I think we did mesh and while I think we didn’t necessarily achieve what we wanted to, I don’t think that’s on him. I don’t think it was because of him.”
Walker only appeared in 43 games last season due to injury woes and was dealt to Oklahoma City for Al Horford and Moses Brown. After not being able to move his contract, the Thunder came to a buyout agreement with Walker, who then signed a two-year deal with the Knicks. The question about Walker now is his health, if he can be the player again who reached four straight All-Star games. Brown has no doubt about it.
“It’s just his spirit, that’s speaking straight to who Kemba is and the amount of fight he has inside of him just from being around him for the last two seasons,” Brown said. “Kemba’s just somebody you can’t break his spirit no matter what. People like Kemba are going to be OK.”
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