The Charlotte Hornets appear quite motivated to move point guard Kemba Walker, and they’re reportedly hoping one team steps up with interest.
According to Ian Begley of ESPN, the Hornets are hoping the New York Knicks get involved in the Walker sweepstakes. Charlotte is said to be seeking a good young player or a first-round pick in exchange for Walker, and Knicks rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina would be of interest.
However, the Hornets also want to shed some salary as part of a deal, which would not be of much interest to the Knicks. The two sides have not had major discussions, and it is unlikely New York would meet Charlotte’s current asking price.
Walker doesn’t want to be moved, but it sounds like something the Hornets are very interested in doing. It’s a storyline worth watching ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
The Charlotte Hornets have reportedly put Kemba Walker on the trade market, but the star point guard would much rather stay put.
Walker said Friday that he would be “devastated” if the Hornets dealt him, admitting that he would prefer to stay put and turn the franchise around.
“I would definitely be devastated if I was to get traded,” Walker said, via Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk. “I do want to be here.”
Walker admitted that dealing with trade rumors for the first time in his career hasn’t been easy.
“I’ve never really been in trade rumors like that, like I’ve been hearing lately about myself,” Walker said. “But I mean, I don’t know. I don’t even know. I don’t know.
“This is very new, and I really just don’t know.”
Walker has, in the past, been frustrated with Charlotte’s lack of success, but he clearly wants to be a part of the turnaround. That may no longer be possible. He’s a 27-year-old signed on a very team-friendly deal through 2019, which could fetch the 18-25 Hornets a big haul in a possible trade.
The mother of all NBA seasons is almost here. So as you finalize your League Pass subscriptions, complete your fantasy drafts, and prepare the guacamole for your watch parties, take some time to ponder the true meaning of the season — specifically, the benevolent stars who make such a joyous holiday possible with their prodigious athletic talents.
Here I present, each NBA team’s most important player heading into 2017-18:
Atlanta Hawks — Dennis Schroder, PG
“All my friends are dead,” said Schroder in his best Lil Uzi Vert voice as he gazed upon his roster following the respective exits of his last remaining All-Star teammates in Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard this summer. Yes, the Hawks are now as thin as a toothpick, and the incentive for them to “Do Badly for Bagley” or “Make The Fans Puka for Luka” will be enormous. But someone has to lead this JV squad, and their resident German is as good of an option as any. Perhaps we will see Dennis the Menace gun for 20 and 10. Maybe he develops some nice pick-and-roll chemistry with new additions Dewayne Dedmon and rookie John Collins. Perhaps he finally bleaches his entire head blonde. Anything to give this team a modicum of watchability this season.
Boston Celtics — Kyrie Irving
After selling an arm, a leg, and a hip for him this summer, the Celtics will hope that Irving’s performance in his first season with them does not fall flat. The outside noise in Uncle Drew’s ear will be deafening — mockery of his decision to ditch LeBron James and go off in search of his own empire, jeers at the perceived stagnation of his playmaking skills, pervasive meme treatments of his unorthodox views on astronomy. But Irving is here for one reason and one reason only: to ball out. And that’s what he’s gonna do. Just remember kids, there’s no such thing as distractions when you’re very much woke. [mic drop]
With all the shuffling in the NBA this offseason, the common sentiment among fans is that all the talent has headed West — with the exception, of course, of Mr. LeBron Raymone James.
Earlier this summer, I swung by the Big3’s tour stop in Charlotte, and the legend Clyde Drexler had this to say: “The West, in my opinion, had the majority of the good players. After all these trades, now they’ve got all the good players. If ‘Bron comes to the West, they might as well do away with the East.”
The West has won five of the past six All-Star Games and three of the past four NBA titles. It’s unquestionably the more competitive conference, and now that Jimmy Butler and Paul George have been traded to Minnesota and Oklahoma City, respectively, it’s also leaps and bounds ahead of the East in star quality.
But really — there is a case to be made that the West has 13 out of the 14 best players in the league. ESPN made that case, and also argued that the West’s second-flight All-Stars are better than the East’s first flight.
That certainly may be true, but the East still has some studs — especially in its top five. As we rev up for the 2017-18 season, below is our ranking of the 20 best players in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
1. LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
What more can I say about LeBron than what’s already been said? He’s the best player in our generation, and he’s unquestionably one of the three best players of all-time. What’s missing from that all-time debate is that James is still only 32, and he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
Is it out of reason to say he could play another 10 years? What if he keeps posting the same numbers for another five years — then is he the G.O.A.T.? That question will be answered in the future, but the point is this: there’s still plenty left to come before we can judge James’ career against that of the other greats.
2. John Wall, G, Washington Wizards
Wall has always had the talent to be one of the best players in the league, but he really put it all together last season. Anyone who saw his vicious charge through the playoffs knows this dude is not to be slept on — Wall will take on anyone in the league. He has that Dion Waiters “I’m the best player on the floor every time I’m on the floor” mentality.
Wall got a monster contract extension this offseason, and it appears he’s entering his prime. Last year he set career marks for points (23.1) and assists (10.7).
The Charlotte Hornets will not be returning to the playoffs this year, and their All-Star guard is already looking ahead to the free agent recruitment trail.
In a recent interview with Glenn Burkins of Q City Metro, Kemba Walker specifically mentioned Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin as a free agent who would make for a nice fit on the Hornets.
“I think one of the bigger free agents this year is probably Blake Griffin,” said Walker. “I think Blake would be a great fit for us. I mean, don’t get y’all’s hopes up. (laughter) It sounds good.”
The 28-year-old Griffin, who is averaging 21.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game this year, has a $21.4 million player option for the 2017-18 season that he seems likely to decline in order to test free agency. On paper, he would indeed be a strong fit in Charlotte, as their power forward depth chart currently consists of Marvin Williams, who is more of a hybrid forward, and Frank Kaminsky, who may have a higher ceiling as a stretch five.
However, it’s difficult to envision the five-time All-Star leaving behind more money, more years, and his entertainment interests in Los Angeles, even if we heard recently that he might actually be growing more open to the idea. The fact of the matter is that the Hornets are a small-market, non-contending team, and even if Griffin does wind up leaving the Clippers, other interested parties probably stand a much better chance of landing him.
Add Kemba Walker’s name to the list of players downplaying the importance of the NBA All-Star Game.
After his Charlotte Hornets defeated the Portland Trail Blazers by the final of 107-85 on Wednesday, Walker responded rather matter-of-factly to a question about if he thinks he should be an All-Star this season.
“Not really, if you ask me,” Walker said, per the Associated Press. “Especially because of where my team is. But like I said, I really don’t care honestly. We haven’t been doing a great job of winning consistently, [so] the All-Star game is the last thing I’m going to think about right now.”
Walker’s numbers this year are certainly All-Star caliber: 23.0 points on 46.1 percent from the field (both career-highs) to go with 4.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. But unluckily for him, he has to compete with a deep pool of Eastern Conference point guard talent that includes Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Lowry, John Wall, and others. At the last All-Star voting update, Walker had 105,637 votes, ninth amongst backcourt players in the East.
Deserving guys get left off the All-Star team every year, and Walker, who seems like a longshot to be selected, even as a reserve, may fall into that category this time around. But with the Hornets currently a seventh seed at 21-21 on the year, Walker is joining an increasing number of players, this fellow Eastern star included, who are much more concerned about making the playoffs than about a meaningless exhibition game in the middle of February.
Congratulations to Kemba Walker for pulling a Nick Young.
The Charlotte Hornets guard produced a viral but forgettable moment on Thursday when he began celebrating a shot against the Miami Heat that didn’t go into the basket:
You can’t blame Kemba for thinking the shot was going in, but you have to laugh at him for turning his back and celebrating one that rimmed out. And here’s the original: Nick Young doing the same thing.
One guy who’s happy to see Jeremy Lin get his chance to run the show in Brooklyn is former Hornets teammate Kemba Walker.
In an interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer on Thursday, Walker heaped praise on his ex-backup, saying that he deserves his opportunity to start.
“I hate to see him go, but at the same time I’m definitely happy for him,” Walker said. “He deserves to be a starter in this league. He’s such a great player and he proved that last season. There were games where I was off and he carried the team.”
Walker, 26, enjoyed the best statistical season of his career in 2015-16. But Lin’s effectiveness running the second unit took much of the burden off Walker’s shoulders and was instrumental to Charlotte’s surprise sixth-seed playoff berth last year.
For Lin, who signed a three-year deal with the Nets this offseason and will get the chance to be their full-time starting point guard, his rim-attacking mentality and productivity operating out of the pick-and-roll are very much starter-caliber material. It’s great to see that Walker, who is himself becoming one of the Association’s top young point guards, thinks so too.
Image Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
H/T NBA Reddit
The offseason is already off to a rough start for the Charlotte Hornets.
The team announced on Monday that guard Kemba Walker underwent successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He is expected to resume basketball activities in July.
Walker, 26, had a career season in 2015-16, averaging 20.9 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, and 5.2 assists per game. He led the charge to a surprise playoff berth for the Hornets in the Eastern Conference, where they fell in the first round to the Miami Heat in a seven-game thriller.
While Walker has ample time to recover in time for training camp, the news is somewhat concerning since the former No. 9 overall pick already needed surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee back in January 2015. For Walker, a player whose game relies a lot on speed and lateral movement, it remains to be seen how the injury will affect him moving forward.
Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
In the midst of a career year with the Charlotte Hornets, it’s clear that guard Kemba Walker is playing with a bit of extra oomph this season. Now we’re getting a small glimpse into what his motivation might be.
“I’m tired of not being in the playoffs. I’m tired of having to watch the first round at home, not being a part of it,” Walker said on Friday in an interview with Michael Lee of The Vertical. “It’s a fun time for basketball. You know you get some national notoriety, of course. You want to be seen. You want to have fun. You want to play at the highest level. I don’t want to be there one year and then next year not make it. I want to be there every year.”
The UConn product has made the postseason just once in his five-year NBA career so far, a four-game sweep in the first round at the hands of the Miami Heat in 2014. But the Hornets have exceeded all expectations this season with a record of 43-31 (fifth in the Eastern Conference) and are on the verge of officially clinching a spot in the playoffs.
A major part of that has been Walker who is at or near his career-high levels in virtually every major statistical category in 2015-16 with averages of 21.0 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, and 5.2 assists per game.
While he has benefited from better floor spacing and depth with the acquisition of Nicolas Batum as a secondary playmaker/perimeter defender, the resurgence of Marvin Williams, and the addition of Jeremy Lin as a dependable backup, Walker deserve a lot of the credit himself.
Entering the season as a sub-40 percent shooter for his career, Walker reworked his jumper over the offseason and is now posting a career-high 42.8 percent from the field while reinventing himself as a knockdown three-point shooter (hitting 2.2 threes per game at a 37.8 percent clip).
With a surprising amount of parity this season, the Eastern Conference looks as wide open as it has ever been. With Cardiac Kemba leading the way, a deep playoff run for the Hornets actually might not be all that far out of the realm of possibilities.
Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
H/T NBA Reddit