Kemba Walker says he understands the Hornets‘ decision to offer him a contract worth less than he was eligible for, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. That move led Walker to leave the franchise where he spent the first eight years of his career and sign with the Celtics, even though Boston’s max offer of $141MM over four years was about $19MM less than he could have made on his five-year offer from Charlotte. The Hornets elected not to extend a super-max offer that would have paid him $221MM.
“They offered, but it just wasn’t an offer I could accept. I guess that’s the (most) money that they had,” Walker said. “I know they didn’t want to go over the (luxury) tax. Which I completely understand. It’s a business at the end of the day, and I respect the decision that they made. No hard feelings at all. I still love that organization and everything around it. It was tough for me (to leave), and I know it was tough for them; for MJ (owner Michael Jordan) and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) to let me go. But at the end of the day you have to do tough things in life. It just happens.”
During his time in Charlotte, Walker was committed not just to the team, but to the city. He said he remains grateful for the opportunity that Jordan provided when he took Walker with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. Walker recalls the struggles of a 7-59 record in his first season and said the community remained supportive as the franchise improved. He said he felt obligated to give back to the city and try to inspire young people.
However, Charlotte made the playoffs just twice while Walker was there and got bounced in the first round both times. He immediately noticed a different atmosphere in Boston.
“Here, these guys are about winning — everything is about winning,” Walker said. “About getting to the playoffs every single year. You can feel that culture, that vibe, that environment each and every day. You walk into (the Celtics’) practice facility and they have all the (championship) banners up. The arena has all the banners up. It is such a legendary organization. That’s all they know is win! It’s a very high expectation. And that can be tough, too, to come into a situation like that, but that’s what I want. I want to have that expectation and to compete at the highest level. I think I have a real shot at doing that here with the Celtics.”