Until this summer, 29-year-old Kemba Walker spent his entire playing career as the focal point of the Charlotte Hornets. But when it became clear that he would have to leave the Hornets after spending nine years with the franchise, Walker admits that it took a toll on him mentally.
During a conversation with The Athletic's Shams Charania, Walker explained what was going through his head as he prepared to leave Charlotte for the Boston Celtics.
"Tough days, f--king tough days, I can't even lie," Walker said. "Excuse my language. It was difficult. I couldn't see myself just being on another team. It was just hard. That's all I've known was Charlotte. Definitely some tough times. I had a feeling that I wasn't going to get the offer that I wanted, and maybe not close to it, because of cap space."
Per Charania, the Hornets only offered Walker a five-year $160 million deal despite being eligible for a five-year $221 million supermax contract. As a result, Walker decided to take the four-year $140.8 million offer from the Celtics. He's now hoping to help lift Boston after the Celtics' disappointing season, but he's not trying to be a replacement for Kyrie Irving.
"I'm not trying to go in and think that I have to be better than Kyrie last year," Walker said. "It happens. Great players go to teams all the time and it just doesn't work. It just didn't work for him. Kyrie is one of the best players we have in this world. It was just unfortunate, an unfortunate season."
Although being low-balled by the Hornets and leaving Charlotte was unfortunate, Walker is now on a team that can be a legit contender in the Eastern Conference. The opportunity to play with so much talent is a welcomed change for Walker.
"I haven't wrapped my mind around contending at this high level," Walker explained. "It doesn't even sound right. I've been with the Hornets for eight years, and maybe one time we had some expectations. Maybe just one season; seven-, six-seed or something. This year, there will be expectations—and I'm excited. I don't know how to feel, I've never had this feeling."