The Boston Celtics have emerged as the front-runners to sign Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker in free agency, league sources tell ESPN.
Walker’s eight-year career with the Hornets appears to be coming to close, with owner Michael Jordan no longer determined to extend far enough financially to re-sign his franchise player, league sources tell ESPN.
Walker and his agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports, are expected to connect with Boston GM Danny Ainge sometime soon after free agency opens Sunday at 6 p.m., league sources said.
Walker, a three-time All-Star, is expected to be offered a four-year, $141 million contract from the Celtics — a deal that he’s increasingly likely to accept, league sources said.
The Celtics have targeted Walker, 29, as the No. 1 priority in free agency, an elite-level replacement for the departing Kyrie Irving, sources said. Walker had his best season as a pro, averaging 25.8 points without missing a game in 2018-19.
After a season of locker room turmoil often centered on Irving’s discontent, the Celtics crave the stability and leadership that Walker could bring — along with an All-Star talent in the prime of his career.
Boston can renounce the rights to restricted free agent Terry Rozier to clear space to start Walker on a four-year deal beginning at $32 million annually.
Walker can plug into a Celtics lineup that includes Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown. Boston can still pursue a center with its $4.8 million exception and deliver a roster at the start of the season that could be competitive with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Walker won a national championship at nearby UConn in 2011, and is a New York City native.