The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 30, 2019 1:00 am

NBA free agency

Walker to Celtics as chaotic period starts

TIM REYNOLDS | Associated Press

Let the dealing begin.

The last time Kemba Walker was playing for a team in New England, he delivered a championship.

Boston fans can only hope that repeats itself.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Walker has told the Charlotte Hornets of his intention to sign with the Boston 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 after 6 p.m. today 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.

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.

Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is planning meetings in Los Angeles and Kevin Durant will do the same in New York.

Leonard, Durant, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Nikola Vucevic and Khris Middleton are among the top players who will be deciding whether to change addresses or not.

No deals can be signed until July 6, though players and teams can enter into agreements starting today.

The NBA set the salary cap for the 2019-20 season at $109.14 million, a raise of just over $7 million.

The tax level will be $132,627,000 and the minimum salary, which is 90 percent of the cap, is $98,226,000.

Changes could shift the balance of NBA power considerably – especially if Durant leaves the Warriors and Leonard leaves the NBA champion Toronto Raptors. Durant will be pursued by the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers along with Golden State; Leonard is likely to hear pitches from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers and the Raptors.

Durant and Leonard were asked countless times this past season about their free-agent plans.

Durant won't play next season because of a ruptured Achilles. He still may command a $221 million, five-year contract from Golden State.

Some deals shouldn't take long to be announced today.

A person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that Sacramento plans to offer Harrison Barnes a deal that will pay him as much as $90 million over the next four years, with the exact total hinging on math that will be figured once the salary cap is set for next season.

Jimmy Butler could re-sign with Philadelphia to stay there, or as the first step in a sign-and-trade with Houston and Miami among the potential suitors in that case.

Orlando wants to keep Vucevic, and Milwaukee seems positioned to give Middleton a max deal that will keep him alongside NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“A lot of things are going to happen,” said Raptors guard Danny Green, one of this summer's free agents.

Come 6 p.m. today, those things can finally begin.

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