NBA rumors: Celtics shoot down Kemba Walker report

A Celtics team source denied the reported breakup and vehemently denied that the team was looking to trade Walker and pursue free agent Jrue Holiday last offseason, calling the latter rumor “total garbage.” The team source also told SportsCenter 5 that Walker has not informed the Celtics that he has soured on them and that the four-time NBA All-Star is focused on getting as healthy as possible after dealing with a balky knee that limited him to 43 regular-season games and forced him to miss Boston’s final two playoff games.

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The team source also told SportsCenter 5 that Walker has not informed the Celtics that he has soured on them and that the four-time NBA All-Star is focused on getting as healthy as possible after dealing with a balky knee that limited him to 43 regular-season games and forced him to miss Boston's final two playoff games.
Sources close to the Celtics revealed Ainge sought to trade Walker, and Jrue Holiday was the target. Holiday ended up with the Milwaukee Bucks, who are now in the second round of the playoffs.
“They need to have internal growth,” another NBA executive told HoopsHype. “They’re pretty stuck when it comes to salaries. They’ve been trying to move Kemba Walker for a year now and no one is touching that. Their best bet would be to move Smart, but I don’t know what his market is. They could trade Brown to try to fill a different position, but that would be a bad move.”
Either way, he's now become a concern for Boston because he's owed more than $73 million over the next two years. Walker's trade value is now not seen as an asset, sources say, but as a player who can hopefully make a comeback. But that can't be counted on.
Multiple front-office sources across the NBA told The Athletic this week they still view Walker as having negative trade value should the team decide to go that route this offseason. That likely means a trade would cost the Celtics extra picks or assets to offload, even if Walker is universally admired for his relentlessly positive attitude and hard work through injury.
Because Ainge used most of the Gordon Hayward trade exception to bring in Evan Fournier, acquiring another star would likely require sending Walker out to a team looking to take on recent or future first-round picks as a sweetener. The Thunder have come up several times as a good fit for such a deal after Sam Presti’s trade spree last offseason, especially with the idea of Al Horford returning to Boston to fill the hole left by Hayward. But the dream of being able to flip an aging star for young assets is gone and the gambit that he would recover his trade value appears to have failed.
What’s the story now? They missed out on Holiday, but will Gordon Hayward bring them anything in a trade? League sources said Danny Ainge was trying to move Kemba Walker for a top 10 pick prior to the deadline. He dangled Kemba in front of Chicago and Cleveland, but neither team bit on the offer.
I think based off everybody I’ve talked to, everybody around the league thinks Charlotte will keep Kemba Walker. Michael Jordan loves Kemba Walker.
The Hornets do not have another top-50 player. Maxing out Walker would cramp their maneuverability in finding one. Walker will be 29 this summer. He's short -- a defensive liability in the wrong postseason matchup. Paying a top-20 player into his 30s as if he were a top-eight player can hamstring a franchise for years. Charlotte can't tank with Walker on the roster. They might not be able to contend for anything with him on a max deal. Ironically, that is why Charlotte might throw the full boat at him: Without Walker, what do they have? Without Walker, there is no choice but to tank. Charlotte tanked Walker's rookie season. It didn't work. Small markets rarely have the stomach to tank two and three seasons, at least on purpose.
Teams inquiring about Kemba Walker this offseason received the same message, league sources said: the Hornets are committed to contending for a playoff berth with Walker as the face of the franchise. For now, Michael Jordan has a strong desire to re-sign Walker as a free agent next summer, and teams around the NBA have recognized as much. Walker, a two-time All-Star, is averaging 28.1 points and 5.9 assists in 11 games so far.
Charlotte is hell-bent on making the playoffs. Provided they are in the race at the trade deadline, it would be shocking if they dealt Walker. (They had better be snug in the No. 6, 7, or 8 spot in February; their last 20 games are brutal.)
I’m also intrigued by the fate of Kemba Walker, who is in the final year of his contract. Walker is building a home in Charlotte and said he wants to “create something special” with the Hornets. But if Charlotte doesn’t want to risk losing him for nothing next summer, perhaps a trade is in its best interest.
John Gambadoro: Suns have definitely been trying to trade for a front tier point guard - Lillard, Walker, Rozier - but to no avail. Situation at point guard now is not ideal and Phoenix will have to make a trade but Milwaukee pick that they own is not that valuable.
Last season, Walker averaged 22.1 points and 5.6 assists and averaged even more trade rumors — a first for him. “Yeah, of course, who wouldn’t it bother?” Walker said of the trade reports. “Who wants to hear their name in trade rumors? At the same time, I’m seven years in. That was my first time ever hearing anything of that nature. I got over it. What can I do? I tried to ignore it, not think about it as much. I’m in Charlotte. I’m excited to be a Hornet as long as possible.
You said it was a priority to get to know Kemba Walker. What do you know about him now that you might not have known two months ago? James Borrego: We’re texting, we’re calling. We’re definitely on the same page. I see someone who is competitive and cares about this organization at a very high level. I didn’t know just how much he cared about this organization until I spent time with him. This is a person who is fully invested in the city and in the organization. He’s fully invested in wanting to win.
However, Walker says he was happy to hear new GM Mitch Kupchak recently say Walker is a focal point of the franchise going forward. "It means a lot. It means a lot," Walker said. "I want to feel wanted, of course. It feels good. I'm excited he did it. He's a good man and I'm getting to know him every single day. I'm a Hornet. I'm going into my eighth year and I'm excited like it's my rookie year. I'm here right now and that's all I can really think of. "I've got to control what I can control ... that's really about it. I'm not even thinking about it. I see it all the time. I hear about it all the time. I hear about the rumors, but I could care less. I'm a Hornet and that's really all that matters."
The Cleveland Cavaliers' pursuit of Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has reportedly slowed down considerably. Although rumblings surfaced prior to the NBA draft that Cleveland was interested in trading for Walker, ESPN's Brian Windhorst told ESPN Cleveland on Thursday it doesn't look like the Hornets floor general will be donning wine and gold in the near future. "I think that door has closed," he said.
The Cavs have reportedly pursued a deal for Kemba Walker to bolster their pitch to James, but might they be able to swing a deal for Leonard instead? They might have a better shot than anyone in the West, but they’d be hard-pressed to compete with the kind of packages that teams like Boston and Philadelphia could put forth. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Cavs have inquired about Leonard but there is no traction on a possible deal. The Spurs have told teams to put forth offers without any indication of what might come next.
The 28-year-old Walker has been the subject of possible NBA trade talks as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract with the Hornets. That speculation has amped up recently because it is a practical impossibility for Charlotte to sign Walker to an extension before he becomes a free agent in July of 2019 since the Hornets are so tight under the salary cap. "I think everybody is aware of the situation, if you follow basketball a little bit, it is unique that he is on an extension that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out before he becomes a free agent," Kupchak said.
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday he would like to see point guard Kemba Walker end his career here. Don’t construe that as Kupchak ruling out a trade of Walker, who has one season left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. “He is on a (contract) that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out (the best course) before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said, in response to an Observer question about Walker’s status.
So if there was something new in Kupchak’s comments Friday it was his assessing how good Walker is and how beloved he is in Charlotte. “I think he is revered in this community. I know ownership, and myself included, look at him as the focal point of this franchise going forward,” Kupchak said. "(Walker) is a player that we hope is with us, not only for the next couple of years, but he ends his career here.”
According to NBA insider Ian Begley of ESPN, an example of an established star that could entice James to re-sign with the Cavs is current Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. “I just think you have to trade for a point guard who can make things easier for everybody on the court, including LeBron,” Begley said during an appearance on the “Bull and Fox Show” on 92.3 The Fan. He went on to discuss Walker’s availability. “Kemba Walker was dangled by Charlotte before the trade deadline,” he said. “If you could somehow land a player like him in a trade prior to the draft … shortly after the draft, I certainly think that would impact LeBron’s thinking.”
Cleveland has in fact inquired about Kawhi Leonard's availability from the Spurs, among others, and league sources suggested Charlotte's Kemba Walker could be in play for the Cavs.
Marks told me the combination of this being a weak class of free-agent point guards and few teams having considerable cap space heading into July could work to the Hornets’ advantage if Kupchak looks for a Walker trade. Marks said if teams aren’t excited about what’s available in free agency in July, then they could instead make over rosters with trades in June. Cho did that in 2015, acquiring Batum and Jeremy Lamb while preparing for the draft.
if Kupchak decides a massive rebuilding project is in order, Walker could be the first one out the door given he's the team's biggest bargaining chip and has a favorable contract. "I have no idea," Walker said Wednesday regarding his future after Charlotte's regular season finale. "That is out of my control. I am just going to focus on getting better as a player. That is really all you can do. I don't know what they are going to do."
NBA executives expect Kemba’s name to be floating around the rumor mill again this summer. There aren’t many teams that need a playmaker, but now is the time to strike for the ones that do. Walker, who turns 28 in May, will make only $12 million in 2018-19, a manageable contract to trade for.
Zach Lowe: What [did Kemba Walker] wanna know about [potentially getting traded after the Adrian Wojnarowski report came out]? Steve Clifford: I think I was more proactive with him, just explaining to him that A) there's no untradeable player. Go back through NBA history, and player could be traded. But B) I told him it would be very difficult to find a scenario where he could be traded. And the fact that there were rumors, which is gonna happen, is because he's such a good player making less money than he's worth by a lot. So of course, there were gonna be calls.
Steve Clifford: That was the first part of it. Then I know after shootaround, by the time we had gotten back to the arena that night, Michael Jordan had called him and spoke to him, and explained to him that we weren't looking to trade him. And basically we went through the whole thing. Kemba said that Michael was very forthcoming and said, 'Listen. If there is an unbelievable trade with Player A and Player B, and it would make our team a lot better, of course, anybody could be traded.' But then I explained to him, 'Look, you're not gonna be traded. You're gonna be here. You're the face of our franchise.' And I thought Kemba handled it great.
Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has been compared to Kobe Bryant for his competitive zeal. Is a player with Walker’s makeup receptive to riding out another major rebuild? “I’m not sure. Nobody wants to lose. Especially not me,” Walker said at practice Friday, following the Hornets’ fifth consecutive loss Thursday, at home against the Brooklyn Nets.
Walker said he and his teammates haven’t talked much, if at all, about what might come next once this season is completed in mid-April. “I haven’t thought about any of that,” Walker said. “It’s something I’ve got to deal with whenever it happens. It’s just not something that has come up to me.”
Polk said it’s a “concern” Walker will likely have to reach unrestricted free-agency before he could be re-signed, but that’s a function of the rules. “We love Kemba Walker,” Polk said. “We would like nothing more than for Kemba to end his career here.”
Kemba Walker didn’t want his second All-Star appearance to come this way. But he’ll take it. Now the native New Yorker just hopes to be in Charlotte next February as host when the All-Star Game is held there. Widespread reports had the Hornets shopping Walker, though the Knicks went with Emmanuel Mudiay instead with an eye on their 2019 cap space. “I think I’ll still be there,’’ Walker told The Post with a smile.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Cleveland is staying persistent in trying to construct a Kemba Walker deal, but there remains no traction there, league sources tell ESPN. MIchael Jordan isn't easily parting with Walker.
The Hornets continue to field calls on Kemba Walker, but no Walker deal gets done unless a team absorbs one of the handful of bad contracts on Charlotte’s roster, sources said. Another variable at play: The future of GM Rich Cho. Cho is in the final year of his contract and there have been rumblings that former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is a favorite among high-ranking team officials to take over next summer. If Hornets owner Michael Jordan is resolved to replace Cho, he may not sign off on dealing Charlotte’s most appealing asset.
The growing concern over max deals has created a ripple effect heading into the trade deadline. Execs and agents I spoke to believe it explains the rise in trade chatter involving stars. Teams are more regularly gauging the value of their own centerpieces, and other teams are making more calls knowing they’ll listen. It’s why we’re hearing reports about Aaron Gordon and Kemba Walker being available.
Walker was devastated – his word – when he learned of ESPN’s initial report that the Hornets were canvassing the league for his trade value. Jordan looked to mitigate the damage when he called me a few days later to say the Hornets weren’t “shopping” Walker, and it would take an irresistible offer to justify moving him.
Walker wants to be here, to be part of the solution that makes this team competitive in the postseason. He’s loyal, he’s passionate, and as Gentry described, he has a competitive streak that is rare even by the standard of the most elite NBA players.
The Pacers are one of at least six teams who could be potential trade partners. Did Walker enter Monday night’s game thinking that Bankers Life Fieldhouse would soon be his home arena? “Nah, that’s not something I’m thinking about,” said Walker, smiling after the Hornets’ shootaround on Monday. “I just control what I can control. Try to play for my teammates and coaching staff, and win, that’s the most important thing. Trade rumors and stuff like that, that’s something I couldn’t control. I just try to look past it and play.”
John Wernz: Any scenario for Wolves to go after Kemba now that Teague can be traded? #Wolves Darren Wolfson‏: Charlotte doesn't want to take on Teague's contract. If they move Walker, they are looking for a ton. Doesn't sound like much is churning on the #Twolves trade front. Maybe things change closer to Feb. 8. #AllEyesNorth
Because of the depth at point guard, in particular, McDonough indicated it’s less likely Phoenix will make a move for a veteran point guard before the Feb. 8 deadline. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but he’s 27 and his contract expires after the 2018-19 season. “If we can make any moves there that could help us in the short-term solution, we’ll look at that,” McDonough said, “but I think (we’re more interested) in a long-term solution.”
Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan said Monday night he’s not looking to trade point guard Kemba Walker, and would do so only if the return included a major All-Star, such as the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. In an exclusive telephone interview with the Charlotte Observer, following the Hornets’ 112-107 home victory over the Sacramento Kings, Jordan said he’s disappointed with his team’s 19-26 start, but has not given up on the chances of reaching the playoffs this season. The Hornets have the 12th-highest payroll in the NBA this season at more than $116 million, and Jordan had aspirations for the team to earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“We bred him, we chose him, we groomed him to be a good player for us,” Jordan said of Walker, who the Hornets drafted ninth overall in 2011, to a great extent because Jordan saw traits in Walker that reminded him of his own playing career. “I’m not looking to trade Kemba, but I would listen to opportunities.”
Jordan said he reached out to Walker Friday, after these reports became public, to reassure Walker the Hornets are not predisposed to moving him. “Obviously, the season has been a disappointment so far, and there have been teams asking about players. Also, we’ve been asking about players,” Jordan said, with the NBA’s trade deadline looming Feb. 8. “We ask teams who they like on our roster and they always say Kemba.
The Charlotte Hornets would like engage the Knicks on trade discussions involving All-Star point guard Kemba Walker but New York and Charlotte haven't yet had substantive discussions about a trade involving Walker, per league sources. It seems unlikely at this point that the Knicks will want to meet Charlotte's desired return. Charlotte is hoping a Walker trade returns a good young player or a first-round pick, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks have first-round draft picks and a promising young player in Frank Ntilikina. But the other part of Charlotte's request is a holdup for the Knicks. Wojnarowski reports that Charlotte appears eager to shed one of its less desirable contracts. That would mean the Knicks would likely need to take on extra salary to acquire Walker, which was something New York was hesitant to do in trading Carmelo Anthony over the summer.
Since the NBA returned to Charlotte in 2004, no player has been more synonymous with pro basketball here than point guard Kemba Walker. For the first time in Walker’s six-plus seasons in the Queen City, that relationship appears in jeopardy. In a lengthy and emotional interview following practice Friday, Walker expressed how knitted he is to Charlotte, to the Hornets and particularly to coach Steve Clifford. “That’s my guy. It’s gotten to be bigger than basketball with me and Cliff,” Walker said of his coach the past four-plus seasons. We’ve gotten along from Day 1. I love the way he coaches us - the enthusiasm and the passion he has for the game. It rubs off on people. It has definitely rubbed off on me. He has turned me into a whole different player and person.”
A source familiar with the situation said so far the Hornets’ discussions with other teams involving Kemba Walker have been more exploratory than necessarily on a fast track to a deal. In order to trade away this team’s best and most marketable player, the Hornets would probably have to accomplish at least two agendas: Attach a trade for Walker to discarding a problematic contract (Nicolas Batum’s five-season, $120 million deal, for instance), plus acquire assets in the form of one or more young prospects and/or first-round picks.
Walker did his best to stay composed during post-practice media Friday, but he said it would be devastating to be traded out of Charlotte. “This is the first time I’ve been in this kind of situation,” Walker said of the trade chatter. I’ve been here for the last seven years, and I’m going to do what I can do to help my team win games. That’s all I can do.” And if the Hornets sent him packing? “I’d be pretty upset,” said Walker, who is about 800 points away from supplanting Dell Curry as the all-time career scorer in Charlotte NBA history. “I have put my heart and soul into this city.”
While the Knicks are in a developmental mode with rookie project point guard Frank Ntilikina as one of the centerpieces of their rebuilding plan, an All-Star point guard hailing from New York has come on the trade market in Kemba Walker. The Hornets, faced with luxury-tax issues, want to shed Walker’s contract as they are not even in the playoff hunt, ESPN.com reports. An NBA source, despite speculation linking the Knicks and Walker, told The Post the club has not made contact with Charlotte about Walker to date.
One thought — if the Knicks get into the sweepstakes — is giving up their 2019 first-round pick along with Ntilikina in hopes of Charlotte taking on the remaining years of Joakim Noah’s contract. (The Hornets can always use the stretch provision on Noah after the season). Another NBA source added that the Hornets will be asking teams to take back one of their larger contracts like, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, making a Knicks’ match even more unlikely.
Kemba Walker would look great in a Detroit Pistons uniform. But is the Charlotte Hornets star point guard worth the price? A person with firsthand knowledge of the situation indicated the Pistons are indeed interested in Walker, who reportedly has been made available by the Hornets.
Steve Kyler: At this point I was told odds of a Kemba trade so low not worth speculating. He is eligible for a Max extension this summer. Thats when Hornets make a decision.
The Michael Jordan-owned Hornets are going nowhere. Yet we advise you to track them at least through the Feb. 8 trade deadline because Charlotte will probably be forced to consider dealing Kemba Walker. If Walker stays, Jordan risks losing his best player without compensation in the summer of 2019 — or, perhaps worse, paying big bucks to hang on to him instead of starting an overdue tear-down of a pricey but mediocre roster.
Chris Kroeger: Steve Clifford on Kemba trade rumors: "I'd be shocked if he didn't want to be here. I mean...he's building a house here right now... I've been around long enough to know you never say never, but I just can't see a scenario where that plays out." #Hornets #BuzzCity
So what if Charlotte traded Walker to begin to ease its financial burdens, as well as to jump-start a rebuild? Say, for example, Walker was shipped to his hometown New York Knicks, along with Williams, for rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, Joakim Noah and New York’s 2018 first-round pick. That would save Charlotte about $4 million next season while giving it an intriguing young point guard to install as Walker’s successor. It would also help Charlotte’s first-round pick move into the top five in the lottery, giving the team a chance to land a star in a top-heavy draft, as well as another pick in the middle of the round.
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