Consistent Kemba a Thing of the Past?


After Boston’s defeat in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, many looked forward to the start of the 2020-21 season. As a team, the Celtics took another step toward hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy, but ultimately fell short of their quest.

The historic play of 22-year-old Jayson Tatum helped guide the Celtics just short of The Finals. Add budding superstar Jaylen Brown and the stalwart duo of Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis to the fold makes them that much better. Mixing in veterans like Tristan Thompson along with rookies Payton Pritchard and Aaron Nesmith immediately made Boston a title contender.

Despite the core staying intact and the acquisitions made by Danny Ainge, Kemba Walker remains Boston’s X-factor this season.



The 30-year-old’s performance attributed toward the Celtics’ success, but he looks like a different player now compared to last season. Walker orchestrates the team’s offense and makes key plays on defense. Similarly, he is one of the league’s best when it comes to creating for teammates through passing and selfless playmaking.

When Kemba is playing well, everyone else seems to step up, too, making it even more difficult for opponents to stop the C’s. Likewise, his heart and confidence are unmatched during decisive moments.


After reports of Kemba needing offseason knee surgery surfaced, fans worried the procedure may prevent Walker from playing his best. The procedure left Walker out of play for the beginning of the season. A shortened offseason and missing preseason work only made his situation worse. While other players took advantage of the time off, Kemba worked on returning to basketball shape.

Before the operation, Kemba had been putting up efficient numbers for Boston in the playoffs. His 19.6 points per game put him behind only Tatum and Brown, while also averaging 5.1 assists and 4.1 rebounds per contest.


Post-operation Kemba has only shown glimpses of that ability this year. Some may say he is still recovering and not in optimal shape. Although that may be the case, that cannot be the excuse for his poor play all season.

In Boston’s most recent game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Walker looked lost on offense. Despite his 1-12 shooting performance, Cardiac Kemba had an opportunity to win the highly touted matchup, but missed a last-second shot. He also failed to make any of his five three-point attempts against the defending champs.


After Kemba’s first six games, one glaring aspect of his game is his inconsistency behind the arc. Walker has made 12-of-41 attempts this year, good for 29.3% despite being a 35.9% career three-point shooter.

When Boston acquired the former UConn Husky in 2019, they hoped he would be an offensive sparkplug for a team trying to find its identity. Ainge brought him in to lead a young team while carrying the swagger and big-game confidence he is known for.

But those assets seem to be missing from Walker night in and night out. Without that mindset, his level of play decreases while hindering his teammates. His subpar play has allowed other teams to key in on Tatum, Brown and Smart.

After Boston’s defeat to LeBron and Co., Kemba looked to get out of his shooting slump against Golden State. The Celtics won the first game of their west-coast tour, defeating the Warriors 117-111. For Walker, he drained three of his nine attempts from beyond the arc and contributed 19 points and five assists in the victory.

Although Kemba did not shoot particularly efficient, his volume scoring allowed for Boston to create open looks for others. Notably, Walker sparked the C’s offense by making a quick midrange followed by a three-point basket early in the first quarter. Ultimately, Kemba looked like his usual self, playing with the aforementioned confidence and swagger he had been missing during his slide.


Kemba’s play truly defines Boston’s ceiling. Knowing Tatum and Brown can only carry so much of the scoring load for this team, he needs to step up if he wants to finally win a ring. If Kemba can return to last season’s form, this team will be hard to eliminate in the playoffs. But if he continues to be a liability, the Celtics may need to explore other options next season.

Between Kemba’s knee procedure and late return to the season, it may have set him back slightly. But he is more than resilient enough to bounce back.

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About AJ Mitchell

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