BOSTON†ó The last time he played for a New England-based team, Kemba Walker went on an incredible run.
As a junior at the University of Connecticut in the 2010-11 season, Walker led the Huskies to five wins in five days to take the Big East Conference championship, then guided them to six straight victories for the NCAA title.
It was quite a display by the 6-foot-1 point guard from the Bronx section of New York City as he lifted a UConn team that had lost four of its final five regular-season games all the way to the top of the college basketball world.
Eight years later, Walker is returning to New England for the next chapter in his basketball life.
He is leaving the Charlotte Hornets via free agency after agreeing to a four-year, $141 million contract with the Celtics. Walkerís agent, Jeff Schwartz, confirmed the deal to ESPN early Sunday night.
When the free-agent market opened for business at 6 p.m. Sunday, the 29-year-old Walker was in Massachusetts meeting with the Celtics to finalize the deal that will pay him an average of $35.2 million per season. Because of the league moratorium, free-agent signings cannot be announced by teams until Saturday.
Meanwhile, the player that Walker is replacing in the Celtics backcourt, Kyrie Irving, will remain in the Atlantic Division as he is teaming with Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets.
Terry Rozier, another point guard for the Celtics, is also leaving via free agency, agreeing to a contract with the Hornets to take over for Walker. All of that happened in the opening minutes of free agency, which was moved up from midnight on July 1 this year.
ESPN is reporting that the Celtics are trying to include Walker, Irving and Rozier in a three-team sign-and-trade deal that would allow them to wind up with a $9 million mid-level exception to use on another free agent.
Walker will be coached in Boston by a familiar face from his final college game. Brad Stevens was on the Butler University bench on April 4, 2011 at Reliant Stadium in Houston when UConn defeated the Bulldogs, 53-41.
After scoring 16 points to go with nine rebounds in that win over Butler, which was in the NCAA title game for a second straight year, Walker left for the NBA and was the ninth pick by the Hornets.
He developed into the teamís top player over eight seasons, earning three trips to the NBA All-Star Game and making the All-NBA third team this past season.
But the Hornets had sub-.500 record in six of Walkerís eight years and lost in the first round of the playoffs twice to the Miami Heat (a sweep in 2014 and a seven-game series in 2016).
Walker has averaged at least 20 points in each of the past four seasons and finished 10th in the NBA this year with a career-best 25.6 points. According to ESPN Stats, Walker is the fifth player to be acquired by the Celtics after averaging at last 25 points the previous season along with Kyrie Irving, Ray Allen, Dominique Wilkins and Bob McAdoo.
With Irving and Al Horford, who opted out of the final year of his contract, both leaving via free agency, the Celtics looked like they were going to take a one-two punch.
But getting Walker in the fold has allowed the Celtics to make up for the loss of Irving by replacing him with a fellow All-NBA player.
Walker, who was second in the nation in scoring his junior season at UConn, was on a team with Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey that got its act together in the Big East tourney and rolled through the NCAAs.
The Huskies eliminated a San Diego State team that featured Kawhi Leonard when Walker scored 36 points and he had 18 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in the national semifinal against Kentucky.
Walker started 25 of 66 games during his lockout-shortened rookie season but was a fixture in the Hornetsí starting lineup after that, getting better and better with each passing season.
Owner Michael Jordan could have paid Walker a super max contract of five years worth $220 million, but he wasnít interested in doing that. The Hornets reportedly offered a deal in the $160 million range, but Walker decided to look elsewhere, and it was apparent all last week he was leaning to the Celtics.
The Hornets already have about $100 million in salaries for the upcoming season and did not want to pay a luxury tax, so they are losing Walker and getting nothing in return.
The deal with Walker means that the short-lived Irving era is over in Boston.
Acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers after he requested a trade in the summer of 2017, Irving underwent two knee procedures that ended his first season in March 2018.
The return of Irving and Gordon Hayward from injuries was supposed to lift the Celtics into the NBA Finals this past season, but a lack of chemistry derailed the team and Boston was out of the playoffs in the second round.
Irving had announced last October he would be re-signing with the Celtics this summer, but he soured on the situation during the season and is now on his third team.
Walker, meanwhile, joins a nucleus that includes Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. The Celtics need to find some front-court help with Horford and Aron Baynes gone, and they have a $4.8 million mid-level exception to sign a free agent.