Danny Ainge: “This Was Plan A.”
The Boston Celtics officially introduced point guard Kemba Walker and center Enes Kanter in a press conference Wednesday. Celtics general manager Danny Ainge called the signings Boston’s “Plan A”. Filling out the roster with an All-NBA player like Walker and one of the most efficient players in the NBA in Kanter is one thing; claiming the moves were Plan A is another. Plan A would suggest the initial plan. It’s widely known the Boston Celtics were hoping to secure Kyrie Irving long-term and then use Irving to lure another marquee free agent, e.g. Anthony Davis, to the Celtics. Boston also pursued other players such as Kevin Durant.
The Boston Celtics declined a trade for Kawhi Leonard that would have shipped Jaylen Brown out of town. That doesn’t mean Boston was holding out for Walker and Kanter. At the very least, Ainge, unlike the Celtics ownership group, came off as disingenuous. It wasn’t Plan A, but what about the plan in general? It’s almost genius, which is probably why Ainge is arrogant enough to claim it was Plan A. The Celtics acquired two veteran leaders at positions of need ranked in the top-30 in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) for $40.1 Million.
From the Players Themselves
Kemba Walker expressed his sole desire to win as the reason for leaving the Charlotte Hornets . The University of Connecticut star talked of his familiarity with New England and expressed his excitement to learn with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Walker’s Huskies beat Stevens and Butler University for the 2011 NCAA Championship. Considering point guards success in Stevens’ systems, Walker has reason to be excited. “[Point guards] score a lot”, Walker said as the media chuckled nervously, recalling Walker’s 9th-ranked usage rate in 2018-2019. Sound familiar? Walker talked about leading by example, and perhaps most impressively, was eager to talk to Jayson Tatum, Brown and Marcus Smart about their playoff experience, displaying a humility in stark contrast to Irving’s. Walker connections to Tatum via Nike, and Brown through the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, were crucial in signing the All-NBA point guard.
“I want to be the reason nobody else wears number 11”, Enes Kanter quipped in reference to Kyrie Irving, drawing laughs. Kanter spoke about the difficulties he had playing in Boston and relished at the opportunity to play for Boston. A phone call from Walker helped sealed the deal with Kanter, a call that apparently came from Ainge’s phone. Kanter stressed the player-coach relationship and saw Stevens as the perfect fit, while Stevens lauded Kanter’s post abilities, efficiency, passing and leadership skills. Kanter also talked about the difficulties of his personal life, and downplayed concerns regarding travel to Canada. Kanter’s sacrifices and fight for democracy in Turkey make for the high character veteran leader this young Celtics team so desperately needs.
Take Home Message
The Boston Celtics plan, the real Plan A, clearly didn’t work out. Irving is on the Brooklyn Nets with Kevin Durant, and Davis is on the Los Angeles Lakers. One could argue Plan B didn’t work either considering Al Horford is a Philadelphia 76er. But that doesn’t mean the Celtics ended up with Plan C; quite the opposite, actually. No, Boston ended up with the best fit. As Ainge eventually admitted, the Celtics jumping at the first opportunity to sign Walker and Kanter was the best option with the remaining resources.
Walker is a local hero back home in the Northeast set to become the leader the Boston Celtics need. Kanter’s contract is probably one of the best values in the NBA, and he will largely replace the void left when Boston lost their entire veteran inside presence. The question now becomes whether Stevens can get Walker to be more of a distributor and Kanter more of a defender. History tells us Stevens will figure it out.