Storyline: Kemba Walker Trade?

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4 months ago via ESPN

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.

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 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.

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.”
1 year ago via ESPN

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.
1 year ago via ESPN

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.

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.

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.”

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.
1 year ago via ESPN

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.

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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