Walker talk is great, but only wins will ignite his Celtic legacy

Andy Hart
July 02, 2019 - 11:16 am

I hate to be the wet blanket…but it is what it is.

Kemba Walker’s marriage with the Celtics may not yet be official, but the soon-to-be new Boston guard is already enjoying quite a honeymoon period with the Green Team fan base.

First, the three-time all-star wrote all the right things in his piece on The Players’ Tribune which served as a classy goodbye to his eight-year NBA home of Charlotte as well as a hopeful hello to Boston.

Given the way the Kyrie Irving era – gonna fight my snarky instincts to call it an error – ended, Walker is a breath of fresh air who Celtics fans will bend over backwards to embrace, especially still months away from actual meaningful basketball games.

Beyond writing about he and his new team grinding it out for future buckets and stops – which will certainly be appreciated by the courtside faithful – Walker emphasized, “you can bet we’re going to be fun to watch.”

Given his style of play and the potential for him to mesh with budding young Boston talents Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown there is every expectation that Brad Stevens’ squad will indeed be fun to watch in 2019-20.

Then Walker, a star at UConn, arrived in Boston wearing his spanking new Celtics hoodie. Shared some laughs with Danny Ainge. Met with young fans on Newbury Street to get a feel for some summer lovin’.

Twitter shows the young men talking about championships and thanking Walker, though for what exactly isn’t quite clear.

Hope -- like festive fireworks -- is very much in the air in Boston.

But in all this 4th of July week excitement, we all must remember where we were a year ago at this time.

Recall back when everyone in Boston loved Kyrie? When he was similarly declaring his (apparently fraudulent) love for the city and its fans?

The love between Boston and Kyrie was seemingly building last summer, just months before he would declare to fans, “If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.”

Now, we know that all that two-way love affair and talk were nothing but hot air. Cheaper than summer yard sale “steals.”

The season came. The wins, effort and unity never did. Kyrie alienated fans and, apparently, teammates and coaches. A budding dynasty built around the ball-handling wizard fizzled out before it ever began. No title run, instead an early exit from the playoffs.

Now we’re all caught up both buying and selling the idea of addition by subtraction. Chemistry is suddenly king! Watching the better player bid adieu is the reworked plan for success.

Kyrie and Al Horford are out. Kemba and Enes Kanter are in.

As the old T.J. Houshmandzadeh fantasy football commercial declared: “Championship!”

The only problem is that over the last year Ainge and all the rest of us were reminded of a lesson we were supposed to have learned in junior high English class. Kyrie’s debacle rekindled John Steinbeck’s famous line, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

In an NBA where talent trumps more often than not, it’s hard for even the most passionate Green Teamer to argue the Celtics are more talented now than when the hope-filled 2018-19 season began.

As much as the love for Walker is real, it’s built on hope more than talent-driven expectation. Retooled leadership and sum-of-the-parts logic is the law of the land.

While Boston sports fans are a welcoming crew, they’re also a bottom-line bunch.

If the Celtics don’t win early and often in this coming fall and winter, questions around Walker and his max contract will percolate quickly. If plans on paper don’t translate to hardwood success, summer love will soon be lost.

If Boston doesn’t advance deep into a new-look and possibly wide-open Eastern Conference criticism will grow from a murmur to a roar.

Words and welcome wishes are wicked awesome right now.

But only wins and fulfilled expectations will truly make Boston fully embrace Walker and move on from the now-Brooklyn-loving Kyrie.

Enjoy the honeymoon period, Kemba.

Dive headfirst into your new summer love, Celtics fans.

Because soon enough the bottom line – wins – is all that will matter.

Kyrie and Boston fans learned that lesson the hard way last season.

For better or worse, Kemba will do the same in the coming months.

Related: Al Horford, not Kyrie Irving, became Celtics’ biggest loss