Walker Thrilled to Finally Share a Backcourt with Jeff Teague
BOSTON – Kemba Walker could not have been more thrilled Monday afternoon when the news of Jeff Teague’s signing with the Boston Celtics became official. At the time, Walker had still been grieving over the departure of one of his favorite all-time teammates in Brad Wanamaker, who signed with Golden State six days prior, but bringing on board a replacement of Teague’s caliber helped to soften the emotional wound.
“After losing Brad, to bring in Jeff is huge,” Walker stated Wednesday afternoon during a Zoom teleconference with the media. “He’s a guy who’s been around. He knows what it takes to win games in this league.”
Walker has seen first-hand how much Teague impacts winning. When Walker began his NBA career in 2011-12 with the Charlotte Bobcats, Teague was already an established veteran playing for the Southeast Division rival Atlanta Hawks. The pair faced off 27 times over the last nine seasons, with Teague owning an impressive 20-7 head-to-head record.
“Me and him, personally, have had a lot of battles over the years, especially when I first started to thrive in the league, he was really at his best,” Walker said. “I’m excited to be his teammate, to still learn from him as well, because he is a little bit older than me and he’s been around longer than me.”
Walker would have been Boston’s most seasoned player heading into the 2020-21 campaign with 661 career games under his belt, but Teague now takes that crown, having played two more seasons and 110 more games than Walker. Teague also brings a wealth of playoff experience to Boston, having accumulated 71 postseason games, including 60 starts, on his resume.
Such experience will be particularly important at the beginning of the season, as Teague will likely take on a heavy role while Walker continues to rehab after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee earlier this fall. It’s already evident that Teague’s new teammates will be counting on him to help hold things down while their All-Star floor general works his way back to 100 percent health.
“It’s great,” Semi Ojeleye said of Teague’s addition, “especially when Kemba is out of the lineup, having someone on the court that’s seen a lot of different scenarios and been in big games, it’s going to be important for us to get us organized and to keep us as a unit. I think we have a lot of talent out there, a lot of guys who can do a lot of things, but having a veteran guard like Jeff is going to be great for us.”
Even at 32 years old, the former All-Star still seems to have a good amount of fuel left in the tank. Last season, while playing a sixth-man role between stints in Minnesota and Atlanta, the 6-foot-3 guard averaged 15.8 points and 7.8 assists per 36 minutes. The season before that, he dished out a career-best 8.2 assists per game for the Timberwolves.
“Jeff is just a proven guy,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Tuesday morning. “He has had some really good games in the past, and he's been on some very good teams, so he'll be a good leader in the locker room as well. I think that Jeff's at a state in his career where he wants to share what he's learned in this 12-year career. He still has some juice – had a couple of 30-point games last year. And we still think that he can step in, especially early on, to bridge the gap until Kemba comes back ready to go.”
And once Kemba is back and ready to go, he can’t wait to share the floor with his former Southeast Division rival.