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NBA free agency: Kemba Walker tells Hornets he’ll sign with Celtics

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season, when he played in all 82 games.
(Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

The last time Kemba Walker was playing for a team in New England, he delivered a championship. Boston Celtics fans can only hope that repeats itself when he joins their team for next season.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Walker has told the Charlotte Hornets of his intention to sign with the Celtics once the NBA’s offseason moratorium on player movement ends July 6. The person spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither Walker nor the Hornets publicly revealed any details.

The Charlotte Observer first reported that Walker had informed the Hornets of his decision.

Walker can meet with the Celtics on Sunday after 6 p.m., and when he does he’ll likely agree on a $141 million, four-year deal — the most that Boston can offer. Charlotte could have offered Walker the so-called “supermax” deal of $221 million over five years.

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Earlier this month, Walker said he would be willing to take less than the supermax figure to help Charlotte build a roster and said his “first priority” in free agency would be the Hornets. But amid reports that said the Hornets’ offer didn’t even reach $170 million, Walker clearly turned his attention elsewhere — as he said he would.

“I’m not saying that I’ll sign back with them. If it doesn’t work out, I’m definitely prepared to play somewhere else,” Walker said earlier this month.

Boston turned out to be that somewhere else.

It’s a natural fit on multiple levels. The Celtics have been bracing to lose All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, and now have a three-time All-Star in Walker to slide into the starting spot. And Walker played his college basketball at Connecticut, less than 90 miles from Boston and is still revered after leading the Huskies to the 2011 NCAA title. UConn beat Butler — coached by now-Celtics coach Brad Stevens — in that championship game.

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Walker’s departure will be a major blow for the Hornets, who — barring a late sign-and-trade, which does not seem likely — will lose their franchise player for nothing. Walker’s departure comes a few weeks after backup point guard Tony Parker, the longtime San Antonio standout who played with Charlotte last season, announced his retirement from the NBA.

Collison retires

Point guard Darren Collison has decided to retire from the NBA after 10 seasons to focus on being a Jehovah’s Witness.

The 31-year-old Collison played for the Indiana Pacers the last two seasons. He told ESPN’s The Undefeated in a letter Friday that he decided to retire primarily to concentrate on helping the less fortunate through his faith.

“While I still love basketball, I know there is something more important, which is my family and my faith,” he wrote. “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and my faith means everything to me. I receive so much joy from volunteering to help others and participate in a worldwide ministry. The joy I feel is unmatched.”

Collison was on verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent.

He averaged 12.5 points and 5.0 assists in 708 games with the New Orleans Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Pacers. He was drafted out of UCLA in 2009 and was selected to the NBA’s All-Rookie team the following year.


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