More Rumors in this Storyline
Marc Stein: We can scratch “stealth.” Boston and Dallas are at the front of the line that will be trying to lure Kemba Walker away from Charlotte, league sources say
The Knicks also are hopeful for a free-agent meeting with 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, according to a source, and have interest in New York City native Kemba Walker and New Jersey native Kyrie Irving.
Kupchak reinforced that everything else this off-season is secondary to re-signing Walker, who is eligible for a new contract of up to $221 million over the next five years. “You’re talking about a substantial contract that goes out many years. When that happens, it creates some financial inflexibility that you have to deal with,” Kupchak said. “We have to be mindful of a Kemba contract, should we be lucky enough to re-sign him. There could be limitations (on other roster moves), absolutely.”
Additionally, Kupchak’s comments cast serious doubt that the Hornets can afford to re-sign both Walker and shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. “I would not anticipate that is something we would look to do,” Kupchak said of being a tax-paying team next season. “There are ways to increase (the distance from the luxury-tax threshold). It’s important we address that as soon as possible. Everybody needs to get on and plan.”
Rod Boone: Mitch Kupchak said he doesn’t anticipate #Hornets going into the luxury tax threshold if they re-sign Kemba, which they still want to do. Suggested there are ways to avoid it. (Sounds like code words for stretching a contract or making a trade).
The Mavs, I’m told, are working to calculate how to bring Beverley to Dallas, even though he represents an option ranking well underneath a top priority like max free agent Kemba Walker.
The Lakers right now are operating on both fronts. They still hope to chase max players such as Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, sources say. They also have begun discussing players expected to fetch somewhere in that $10 million-plus range, sources say.
Because of salary cap rules, if the trade is consummated in late July, the Lakers would have the space to add another maximum contract. That cap space could be used on players like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, all-star point guards who will be free agents. That scenario would require the Lakers to draft the fourth overall pick for the Pelicans, or whatever team has its rights by the time of the draft, then sign that player as quickly as possible. League rules do not allow a signed draft pick to be traded for 30 days, which would make July 20 the earliest date the trade could be consummated.
Rick Bonnell: FWIW: Someone who knows Kemba well has told me repeatedly he doubts Kemba would find living in Los Angeles particularly appealing. I’m sure this person has good cause to surmise that, but I still think the Lakers are now a huge threat to convince Kemba to sign there.
Rod Boone: Asked Kemba if he still wants to be in Charlotte. “I don’t know how many times I can say that. I’m not going to lie. I don’t know how many times I can say it. But if it doesn’t work out I’m definitely prepared to play somewhere else. But yes, I would love to be in Charlotte.”
Rick Bonnell: Short version of what @KembaWalker said: @hornets are his first priority, but that doesn’t make it automatic he re-signs in Charlotte. Plans to meet with other NBA teams before deciding. Walker said he’s open to taking less than the supermax from the Hornets.
Nick Carboni: I asked Kemba Walker if he would take less than the Super Max to help #Hornets team build around him: “Yeah I would take less. Sure why not. I would take less.”
ESPN’s Woj – “The big question facing the #Hornets right now is are they going to re-sign Kemba Walker in free agency or are they going to be willing to allow him to go out into the marketplace where teams like the #Mavs/#Knicks/#Lakers are going to be very interested in Walker.”
With free agency less than three weeks away, the situation in Charlotte certainly bears watching. If the Hornets offer Walker a max deal, it seems logical to assume that he stays there. Of course, only Walker — and Walker alone — knows what he wants to do this summer. And he probably won’t have a strong idea about where he wants to sign until he meets with the Hornets or other suitors in a few weeks. But some opposing execs monitoring Charlotte’s free agent situation believe, currently, that if Walker chose to sign somewhere outside of Charlotte, going to New York isn’t a likely outcome for the point guard, per SNY sources.
“I try to keep things pretty light, but in all reality it’s a pretty serious situation for all of us,” Zeller said. “I mean, our careers and a lot of the organization to be honest with you depends on what Kemba decides this summer, whether he stays or goes. I think it really depends on his choice. But our team and our future can go two very different ways depending on what he decides. So I was kind of trying to make light of a serious situation. But I think for Kemba, he’s been great. I’ve been fortunate to play with him for all six years of my career, and a lot of minutes on the court together, and he’s been great.”
“So I think he likes Charlotte. I think he’s a good fit here. But the reality of it is we haven’t been able to make deep runs in the playoffs. So hopefully that will still come in the future. But at the end of the day, Kemba has to do what’s best for him. And I’m going to support him, whatever decision he makes.”
The Hornets and Kemba Walker both have each other as top priorities entering July 1, league sources said. Walker confirmed to Jared Weiss of The Athletic that the Hornets remain his “first priority” during his tour of Tokyo as an NBA ambassador there during the NBA Finals. Walker made the All-NBA third team this year after another spectacular season, allowing him to sign a five-year, $221 million super maximum contract. There is doubt around the NBA that the Hornets will reach that high amount, but owner Michael Jordan’s loyalty has always been with Walker.
For Walker, the decision is easy. “Oh no question, Charlotte’s definitely my first priority,” he said. “That’s where I’ve been for eight years and that’s all I know. Not many people get a chance to play for one NBA team throughout their career. When I go on my Instagram, I see, ‘Kemba leave! Kemba get out of Charlotte!’ People don’t understand, when they say you need to go ‘here’ and win, that winning is not guaranteed anywhere.”
He’s heard the reports that teams like New York and Dallas may be lining up to make a max offer, and he’s heard even more speculation that a return to his hometown plays to his heart. But he cherishes how his career and relationship with his new home have flourished. “Charlotte is my home, man,” Walker said. “I’ve been there for eight years and it’s been the most amazing eight years of my life. My family, they love it. The fans love me. The organization has been great and gave me my opportunity.”
Walker is in the middle of his prime now. So is that fifth year vital to him? “I think so,” he said. “I think at my age, whoever is my age in this situation, I think the fifth year is always important to them. So yeah, it’s important for sure. But I don’t know, we gon’ see if we’re gonna work something out and figure it out. Hopefully, things work out, but it’s all about that god knows where I’m gonna go. He’s the only one who knows where I’m going right now, honestly. So I’m just going to let this thing play out.”
Steve Kyler: All things being equal — Not sure there will be much of a market for DeMarcus… as for Kemba. I know the Magic, Pacers, Knicks, and Lakers have an interest… Charlotte still wants him and can now Supermax him.
Tim Bontemps: The NBA has announced its All-NBA teams. By being named to one of the three teams, Damian Lillard is now eligible for four-year, $191 million extensions this summer, and Kemba Walker is eligible to sign a five-year, $221 million deal as a free agent July 1. No Beal or Thompson.
Rod Boone: It’s third-team Alll-NBA team honors for Kemba Walker. That means he’s eligible for the supermax contract, which in his case is five years, $221 million. Equates to a salary of $38.2 million per season. Now GM Mitch Kupchak has the financial parameters he must work with.
By being All-NBA, point guard Walker would become eligible for a “supermax” contract, worth as much as $221 million over the next five years. That would increase the potential advantage the Charlotte Hornets have to re-sign him in July. But it could also raise the cost of retaining him by more than $30 million. The three All-NBA teams include six guards. Five guards appear to be locks to make the cut, in voting by media who regularly cover the NBA: James Harden, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving. That last spot probably comes down to a close call between Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson and Walker, who averaged a career-best 25.6 points and was an All-Star for the third consecutive season.
Albert Nahmad: Players eligible for “super-max” this summer if earn All-NBA honors: – Kemba Walker: 5/$221M (starting 2019-20) – Klay Thompson: 5/$221M (starting 2019-20) – Bradley Beal: $4/191M (starting 2021-22) – Damian Lillard: 4/$191M (5/$247M if signed next summer) (starting 2021-22)
It’s also worth noting here that some in the Knicks organization are high on fellow free agent point guard Kemba Walker, sources say. But that probably doesn’t matter if Durant tells the Knicks that he’ll sign with them, and that he wants to play with Irving.
Since Kemba is one of the top free agents on the market and it’s his first time experiencing what it’s like, I don’t think we will get an answer until after free agency opens at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1. That’s when teams can officially begin negotiating with free agents and come to verbal agreements. Teams can officially sign free agents and complete trades on July 6 once the league’s moratorium period ends. But even when teams can really start throwing money around, I don’t think Kemba’s status is going to come to light until the first couple of dominoes fall (ie: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, etc.). Kemba is in that next tier just below those guys. It’s honestly all up to Kemba and his agent Jeff Schwartz. They will set the timeline. But the longer it drags out, the more concerned Hornets’ fans should be about his chances of returning.
One source close to Harris’ camp explained how Tobias likes his role in Philadelphia, but the idea of returning home is something he will likely consider this summer. Other names have been mentioned, such as Jimmy Butler, who put the Nets atop his list of destinations when demanding a trade out of Minnesota. Similar to Tobias, a source close to Kemba Walker said the star point guard is intrigued by the idea of coming back to play in his home state — including both the Knicks and Nets.
League sources say that the Mavericks intend to fling themselves into the chase for Khris Middleton and/or Kemba Walker with gusto in hopes that they have a shot at one of them.
Ask people in the NBA which teams might come after Walker, and the responses are what you’d expect: The Knicks, especially if Irving remains in Boston. The Lakers, who will be desperate to surround LeBron with talent and might be stuck choosing between second-tier stars like Walker, Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins. There are whispers around the NBA that the Mavericks are intrigued by Walker, but it’s hard to discern where that rumor arose and if it’s anything more than another game of NBA telephone.
Contradictory as it sounds, Walker being named All-NBA could be detrimental to the Hornets. “They’re fucked either way,” is how three (!) different NBA front-office people described the situation. Let Walker go, and, as one scout said, “They’d be like an expansion team.” Ink him to the supermax and Charlotte would be diving into dangerous waters. As great as Walker is, he’s proved that he’s not capable of carrying a team deep into the playoffs on his own. He’ll also turn 29 in May, bringing him right up to the age where players often begin declining. “It’d be like the John Wall deal,” one front-office person said. “They should have traded him last year, when his value was high. They could have just reset.”
The contract would also push the Hornets right up to the tax line, a threshold team owner Michael Jordan has always avoided crossing. In other words, signing Walker would force the Hornets to run the same group back next year. “They’d be saddling themselves up to mediocrity for years,” one of the front-office people said. The only path out of NBA purgatory would be Walker remaining healthy, promising prospect Miles Bridges continuing to develop, and Charlotte finding Walker a worthy No. 2 next summer, when the weighty contracts of Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($45 million in total cap space) come off the books. “The surrounding pieces aren’t so bad,” another of the front-office people said. “They just need another guy in there so they can all slide down a role.”
Erik Horne: Presti on acquiring better shooters: “Always. We’ll look under every rock. We’re not going to get shooting out of our fives, as of now. Maybe we can push Steven into a development phase where he can do that.”
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker also has fans in the Knicks organization. Multiple executives doing their homework on the free agent class, though, fully expect Durant to sign with the Knicks and Irving to join him.
The Charlotte Hornets had a chance to swing the table and prove to Kemba Walker they’re capable of acquiring talent by trading for Marc Gasol. Yet when a potential deal slipped from their grip, the Hornets star was deflated to see he would no longer be getting help to chase a spot in the postseason. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed the incident in The Woj Pod: “I got the sense in talking to people, that trade deadline really deflated him,” Wojnarowski said of Walker. “When they were pretty close on a Marc Gasol deal, and it fell apart. It didn’t happen. He goes to Toronto. And he looks around and goes, “Come on, what are we trying to do here?”
Charlotte Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak offered two absolutes Friday concerning Kemba Walker’s free-agency: that Walker is a “once-in-a-generation kind of player” and that “we’ll do everything we can to bring him back here.” … Sure, Walker wants to get paid. But lots of other NBA teams can do that, too. He wants proof the Hornets will surround him with enough talent to win sooner than later. That hasn’t happened in Walker’s eight seasons in Charlotte and there are three months left to demonstrate progress.
I asked Kupchak how he felt about Walker saying Thursday that winning will weigh heavily in his free-agency, and that he expects the Hornets are addressing that. Kupchak said he wants all the players — not just Walker — to make winning their imperative. “Kemba has been here eight years now; he has made the playoffs twice. That is not what he wants to do,” Kupchak replied. “Yeah, there is a sense of urgency. That’s my job.”
“I have no feeling right now, I don’t know,” Kemba Walker said of his impending decision in free agency this summer. “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I guess it’s a lot of different emotions bottled up into one. I’m not sure. I don’t know.”
Signing with another team could give him the opportunity to compete for the championship he so desperately craves. “I mean, obviously I do want to be competitive because I want to be able to play in the playoffs,” Walker said. “So I want to think that would have some influence” on my decision.
Seven months later, his intent sounded far less resolute regarding his upcoming free agency. “I’m not sure yet,” Walker said Wednesday night, when I asked if he’s still predisposed to staying with the franchise that drafted him back in 2011. “I don’t know. “I have a long time to even start thinking about that stuff. Me and my agent will get together. Me and my family, we’ll discuss that stuff when the time is right.”
In the meantime, Charlotte has won three straight – including yesterday’s big victory over the Pistons – to remain in the playoff race. Walker insists he’s focused on finishing this season strong, not setting up his next contract. “There’s no way I could play basketball thinking about those kind of things,” Walker said. “You know what I mean? Yeah, I just can’t. I just can’t go on the court thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get 30 because I need to.’ I just can’t think about those kind of things. I mean, I see it, hear about it. But it’s nothing that comes to my attention too much.”
But rumors are already swirling about Walker leaving Charlotte. No clear destinations have emerged, though the Mavericks are reportedly interested. That opens the door for many fan bases to view landing Walker as realistic. Don’t rule out the Hornets, either. “This is the team that believed in me from day one,” Walker said. “So, of course. They’re always going to be on top of the list.”
Jordan knows this. That’s why he refused all offers this deadline and wasn’t interested in 2018 when the Hornets reportedly listened to offers. Jordan loves Walker as a person and player, league sources have repeatedly said, and that’s the primary reason Jordan wants to keep him. But he also knows that without Walker, the Hornets have nothing else.
Threats to sign Kemba Walker away from the Charlotte Hornets this summer? Place this team at the top of your list: The Dallas Mavericks. Two sources with knowledge of the Mavericks’ thinking expect Walker, the Hornets’ three-time All-Star point guard, to be that team’s top target when NBA free-agency begins July 1.
Walker hasn’t spoken at length about free-agency since late September, the day before Hornets training camp began in Chapel Hill. That day, Walker said he intended to re-sign with the Hornets. (Under salary-cap rules, there is no practical way for the Hornets to sign Walker to a new market-value contract until his current contract expires).
Odds Kemba stays in Charlotte? Sam Amick: @Eric R. At this point, based on scuttlebutt around the league but without direct clarity from his side, it feels like he’s more likely to leave than stay.
“It’s great for the city, great for the community,” Walker told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m excited. This city is excited. It’s about time we got an event like this here in Charlotte. “Charlotte means a lot to me. This city has embraced me – allowed me to be who I am, allowed me to grow as a man. I just love the city. This team drafted me, believed in me when I was young.”
Walker will hit unrestricted free agency for the first time. “I don’t know how it goes,” he said. “Me and my agent will sit down and get it right.” It appears he has plans to stay. He recently bought land on which to build a home outside of Charlotte. “I feel like it’s a normal life for me,” Walker said. “I’m never overwhelmed here whenever I do want to get out of the house – walk around, walk around the mall, be me. That’s what I love the most.”
With that in mind, Johnson himself was not having it when he was asked about Kemba Walker by a reporter at an event leading up to NBA All-Star Weekend (via Carolina Blitz): Reporter: I have a question I have to ask you about Kemba Walker– Magic: “You know I can’t answer any questions about no players, because every time I do, I get fined, but anybody else do it, they don’t get fined. So I’m gonna stay away from that one.”
Rick Bonnell: Per @Shams Charania the Mavs inquired with the Hornets about Kemba and were told no interest in moving him. Further evidence the intent is to ride this out to July and re-sign him.
Walker prefers it this way. On the court, his game is the embodiment of the New York City product he is, full of pull-ups, hesitations, crossovers and dimes. Off the court, he would rather be as he is now, in a familiar setting and out of the spotlight. “I love it,” he said of Charlotte during a conversation the previous week before repeating himself for emphasis. “I love it. It’s perfect for me. The pace of the city is pretty slow, which I love. It’s not fast-paced like New York. … I’m able to just live pretty much a normal life. I’m able to go out and eat and not really be bothered. Go to the mall and walk around, not really be bothered. That’s what I like, personally. That’s the kind of life I like to live.”
Walker said recently he knew speculation would increase as the season went on and wanted to circumvent it. “That’s nothing I’m even thinking about right now,” Walker said. “I can’t. It’s nothing that can be done right now until the summer when it needs to be talked about. It’s like why talk about it now when I got to play a full season? That’s not something I want to have in my mind while I’m playing this game. I know when I went to New York to play in the Garden—I knew at some point everyone was going to ask me about free agency when I go there.”
Walker has given every indication he enjoys Charlotte and prefers forming a long-term partnership with the Hornets. He signed his expiring deal in a different NBA economic climate. But the fact that he is the 21st-highest-paid point guard in the league, behind the likes of Brandon Knight, Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson, according to Spotrac, likely isn’t lost on him. “Kemba is a bit of a mellow guy, and I think he likes the laid-back attitude of the city,” said Jeff Schwartz, Walker’s agent. “I think he’s just really comfortable. Think about where Kemba grew up. He grew up in New York, and Charlotte is really different. I think Kemba is completely comfortable in New York, but from a lifestyle and growing up and becoming an adult and having a life outside of the gym, I just think he’s really comfortable. I think it’s symbiotic with the way Charlotte has treated him and the way he reacts to Charlotte.”
Hornets star Kemba Walker says he has talked to general manager Mitch Kupchak about what Charlotte has in store for roster upgrades but that he wasn’t getting involved beyond that, signaling he will take a wait-and-see approach to his free agency this summer. “They know. They know what they got to do,” Walker said in an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump that aired Tuesday. “That’s not my job. I’ll leave it up to those guys. “We have Mitch now, who’s a great guy who’s done a great job at building teams over his GM career,” Walker added, referring to the former longtime Lakers executive who joined the Hornets last April. “And I have a lot of trust in him. So, you know, we talk all the time. Who knows?”
Walker still wasn’t overly confident about sitting down to the negotiating table with Kupchak and Hornets owner Michael Jordan. “I don’t know what I’m going to say to the GOAT,” said a laughing Walker, who in his eighth season with Charlotte is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. “We’re going to see.”
Kemba Walker didn’t shut the door completely, leaving it open just enough to give Knicks fans a glimmer of hope. “I don’t have any interest in coming back home — right now,” the Hornets’ free-agent-to-be point guard said when asked if playing for his hometown Knicks would appeal to him.
Walker was most pleased with the final quarter, in which he didn’t step on the floor. He didn’t offer any hints of his future plans, saying he’s focused on the Hornets’ season and leading them back to the playoffs after two straight seasons in the lottery. “I have no idea. I’m in the season right now,” he said. “Whenever the time comes, it comes.”
“I’ve been hearing it for years now, the Knicks,” Walker said then. “Every time I come home, it’s ‘When are you coming home to the Knicks?’ MSG is a special place, man. The Knicks are a special team. Of course, I’ve been a Knicks fan growing up, always rooted for the home team. But I really can’t see myself in a Knicks jersey — only because I’ve been in one jersey. I really don’t know.”
What more can he say at this point? What more can he do to back it up? In the past two games Walker has compiled 103 points on 35-of-59 shooting. He is the NBA’s scoring leader at 29.6 points per game. He is playing at a level where hearing an “MVP” chant in the fourth quarter didn’t feel contrived. He knows you love him, Charlotte. And he loves you back. “I think they know,” Walker said of his affection and attachment to his team and his town. “I’ve said it so many times. The way I play each and every night, I leave it all on the court. That’s for this organization and for this city. “So, yeah, that’s how I show it.”
According to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic, Jordan is “hellbent” on keeping Walker in a Hornets uniform even though he is set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Charania went on to note the Hornets “still want to build their franchise around” the dynamic playmaker who poured in 60 points in Saturday’s overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
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.
You said when you arrived here that Kemba Walker would be a “focal point” of this team moving forward. Can you definitively say he’s off the trading block now, that he’s not going anywhere? Mitch Kupchak: He’s a free agent this year, so I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say with the league. But our intention is for him to end his career in a Hornet uniform. It sounds like you and he are in agreement, then. He said he doesn’t want to go anywhere and wants to re-sign here. Mitch Kupchak: Yeah, I’ve read the things he said. He’s beloved here. He’s our All-Star. So, why wouldn’t you want to have him end his career here? He’s been here from the beginning. He’s beloved in the community. It sounds like he wants to stay here. There’s nothing that can be done about that now. Next summer, we’ll do what we have to do.
Rod Boone: Kupchak on Kemba’s impending free agency: “I don’t want this to be the theme of the season.” Says he won’t continue talking about it.
The two-time NBA All-Star becomes an unrestricted free agent next July. There is expected to be plenty of interest in him around the league next summer, but Walker said unequivocally Monday that his goal is to continue playing for Michael Jordan’s Hornets. The 28-year-old Walker said at Hornets media day that he doesn’t “want to be nowhere else.”
“You see guys who are on elite teams. I don’t want to do that. I want to create something special here in Charlotte, something that we have never had here before. I want to create some consistency. And I want to be a part of that,” he said. Walker says he is “confident” the Hornets will try to re-sign him next summer, saying, “I just have that feeling.”
JJ Redick: “This week, you did the NBPA camp, and the New York media asked you about playing at home… I feel like this notion, of playing at home, a lot of guys don’t want to do it. Why do you think that is?” Kemba Walker: “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.”
JJ Redick: “As you’ve seen this summer, this notion of player loyalty gets thrown out. So in the back of your mind, I understand what you’re saying publicly, but there’s gotta be a part of you that’s basically like, ‘I gotta do what’s best for me.'” Kemba Walker: “I think at some point, it’s gonna come down to that – it’s gonna come down to be 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.”
Walker’s free agency figures to be a theme across the 2018-19 season. “I don’t get distracted,” Walker said. “It’s the nature of the game, nature of the media. They’re going to ask me. I’ll answer it as best as I can, try to play as best as I can so when my time comes, I’ll have great options. Or hopefully the Hornets will get something done [July 1] before any team can even approach me.”
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.
Kemba Walker can’t avoid it. Whenever he sets foot in the five boroughs, the questions come from every direction. “I’ve been hearing it for years,” Walker said Thursday, after working with youngsters at the National Basketball Players Association summer camp. “Every time I come home, ‘When are you going to come home and play for the Knicks?’ I know it’s a special place, I was a Knicks fan growing up, always rooted for the home team. But I just can’t see myself in a Knicks jersey, only because I’ve only been in one jersey.”
Walker, who will earn $12 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, was asked if we could ever see himself in New York for a homecoming. “As far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it,” Walker replied. “I’m a Hornet, and I’m planning on being a Hornet for a long time, so, yeah, I’m not sure about that (New York).”
While Walker was able to make it out of the Bronx to the NBA, one young camper asked Walker if he would make it out of Charlotte. “I’m not planning to leave, no,” Walker replied. “It’s not up to me right now.” He’s right. It’s up to Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak while Walker is under contract with Charlotte this season.
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.
“I’ve always felt like I’m a winning player. Like I deserved it to be in the playoffs – to be battling,” Walker said. “That’s what it will be all about in the future.”
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.”
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June 25, 2019 | 9:31 pm EDT Update
Multiple sources throughout the NBA believe Irving is leaning toward signing a four-year, $141 million deal with Brooklyn once free agency starts Sunday. And those sources universally agree he’s leaving Boston, — with those bridges not just burned, but bombed into rubble.
Billy Reinhardt: Woj: “With Kyrie, the reason he has gravitated over time to Brooklyn is the infrastructure that’s in place there.” Mentions Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen as core pieces that are attractive to Irving.
Former Eastern Michigan University men’s basketball star Tim Bond (2014-18) came to an agreement with the New York Knicks to join its squad for the upcoming National Basketball Association (NBA) Summer League.
June 25, 2019 | 7:42 pm EDT Update
Sagar Trika: Woj: If there isn’t a five-year max on Klay Thompson’s table at 6:01PM EST on Sunday evening, they can expect him to take meetings. Names the Clippers as one team he would meet with.
As a pending free agent himself, however, Green acknowledged that it’s difficult to be definitive about anything else until Leonard decides whether to stay or go. “I don’t know,” Green said, insisting that he has no insider intel on Leonard’s plans even though they played together in San Antonio and became Raptors together when the Spurs dispatched them to Canada via trade on July 18, 2018. “He may not know, but I don’t know, either. I’m probably more confused or more up in the air than he is.”