Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker recently spoke to Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick on his podcast, and one topic they discussed is Walker’s upcoming free agency.
Walker, who has made two consecutive All-Star appearances, was asked about playing for his hometown New York Knicks (via The JJ Redick Podcast):
“I think it’s just hard coming back home. New York is New York. I’m from here. But you know, I’m just very comfortable in Charlotte. That’s why I gave [the media] those answers. Charlotte was the first team to give me my opportunity out of college, and during the draft, I had no idea where I was going. So I get asked questions about New York all the time, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ I’ve been on one team my whole entire career so far and I’ll be a free agent next season, so, we’ll see.”
The 28-year-old guard has made it clear, especially amid trade rumors last season, that he’s loyal to the organization that drafted him. He was selected in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft and leads the franchise in points scored as well as three-pointers.
Walker acknowledged that his future with Charlotte is yet to be determined. Redick then alluded to how player loyalty goes out the window when a front office trades a homegrown talent like DeMar DeRozan, hinting Walker will need to protect himself.
Even though Walker recognized this, he also echoed his previous comments and doubled down on the point that he wants to remain with the Hornets:
“I think at some point, it’s gonna come down to that – it’s gonna come down to making the best decision for me and my family. But at this particular moment, at this time, Charlotte is where I want to be. It’s the team that gave me my first opportunity. I just want to give back to the community, to the organization, just like I’ve done, but I want to continue to do it. I just want to help the organization become successful, and I think I can. You can count on your hand how many times we’ve been to the playoffs — we really haven’t been successful. I want to be one of the guys that helps that organization really become successful, I want to be in the playoffs every single year. And that’s a huge part of why I don’t want to leave.”
Last season, Walker met with organizational chairman Michael Jordan to discuss the rumors of a potential trade. While one does not seem to be on the horizon, Walker’s most recent comments signal his desire to remain with the franchise that drafted him.
While it could be a tough break for the Knicks, there’s still hope others may have a different mindset. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently speculated that New York has put themselves in the position to make a notable signing in free agency with their cap space, considering they have enough room for a max contract.
Even though Walker would fit alongside their 2017 first-round pick Frank Ntilikina, who projects more as an off-ball guard in the future, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit. Of course, a lot can change between today and when Walker needs to sign on the dotted line for his next contract.