Celtics Rumors: Kemba Walker, Brad Stevens' Relationship Was 'Tension-Filled'

Adam WellsJune 19, 2021

Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker (8) makes a shot against the Orlando Magic during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux

Several players for the Boston Celtics reportedly had issues with Brad Stevens' approach as head coach. 

Per Jared Weiss of The Athletic, the dynamic between Stevens and Kemba Walker was "tension-filled," and at some point they did "butt heads, though the pair were considered to have a productive working relationship and mutual respect for one another."

Weiss noted that Stevens was "more aggressive with certain players this season" after Gordon Hayward, who joined the Charlotte Hornets during the offseason following three campaigns in Boston, told him "he needed to establish a stronger voice with players if they were going to win."

The aggressive approach Stevens took with Walker involved criticism "for his defensive mistakes."

There was speculation earlier this month that Walker's stay in Boston likely wasn't going to last much longer. 

B/R's Farbod Esnaashari reported on June 9 that the Celtics and Walker were "likely to move forward from their relationship this offseason in a mutual agreement between the parties."

The divorce became official Friday when Boston traded Walker and two draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Al Horford, Moses Brown and a 2023 second-round draft pick. 

Walker signed a four-year contract with Boston in July 2019. He started strong with the organization, averaging 21.8 points and 5.0 assists per game with a 38.8 three-point percentage in the first half of the 2019-20 season. 

Knee issues hampered him in the second half of last season and continued to cause problems through the 2020-21 campaign. 

Walker's 19.3 points per game this season represented his lowest average since 2014-15 while with the Charlotte Hornets. 

The Celtics went 36-36 and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round this year. Stevens vacated his position as head coach to take over as president of basketball operations after Danny Ainge retired on June 2.