BOSTON – Kemba Walker has been anticipating this day for three and a half months. At 7 p.m. tonight, he will finally take the parquet floor at TD Garden for his first regular-season game as a member of the Boston Celtics, and he couldn’t be more excited.
“Being here at home and playing in front of these fans is what I came here for,” Walker told Celtics.com Friday morning ahead of Boston's home-opener against the Toronto Raptors. “I can’t wait for the energy in the building. So, I can’t wait to get out of here (the Auerbach Center) and go get my nap in so I can get ready to feel the energy.”
Walker is no stranger to that TD Garden energy, though he’s only felt it from an opponent’s perspective. He suited up for 11 regular-season games in Boston as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, and he vividly recalls what it felt like to play inside the historic arena.
“It’s crazy, man,” he described. “It’s just so intense. They love basketball. They create the energy. The players don’t have to create it as much as you see in other arenas. It’s a special fanbase here and I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
Walker’s looking forward to having his family be a part of that die-hard fanbase, as well. The New York native claims that he reserved about a dozen tickets for family and friends tonight, as his mother, sister, niece, cousin and a few of his best friends will be cheering him on from the stands.
Having that crowd support will be important to the point guard tonight, especially since he and the C’s are coming off of a tough season-opener Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Walker, who scored the third-most points in the league last season, shot 4-for-18 during his Celtics debut, while Boston as a team shot just 36.7 percent during a 107-93 loss.
Walker, however, wasn’t overly concerned by that result. He says that he and the team committed a few minor errors, which they should be able to correct moving forward.
“There were just small, mental mistakes,” he reflected. “Some mistakes were made on the scouting end that we should have been better on. And I think we let our offense discourage our defense because we didn’t make many shots and because a lot of us were missing – we weren’t consistently making shots and we kind of let that affect our defense. We can’t let that happen.
“In the NBA, there’s going to be plenty of nights where we can’t make shots,” he continued, “but we’re going to have to overcome that with our defense. We have to create offense from our defense sometimes, so we’ve got to be more conscious of that. And we will.”
And they must in order to have a chance to defeat tonight’s opponent. The defending-champion Raptors will be taking on a different look this season without Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, but Walker believes they are still one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“They’re champions, man,” Walker stated. “They are a special group. They have a really good group of guys. Of course, Kyle (Lowry), who’s a natural-born leader, a special player, a champion now. (Fred) VanVleet, (Pascal) Siakam – guys who just increased their games to a whole other level. Everybody’s kind of counting those guys out, but that’s a really good team still, and they’re going to be on top of the East most likely.”
Getting a win in Boston, though, won’t be easy. Walker knows just how hard that is, having been on the opposing team playing inside TD Garden for so many years.
But now, the three-time All-Star gets to experience the flip side of that. He’ll have the entire city of Boston behind him, and he doesn't want to disappoint.
“We want to go out there and give it all we've got,” Walker said. “This is home, and we’ve got to protect home court. So, we’re going to go out there and play as hard as we can.”
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