Kemba Walker

Hornets Notes: Walker, G League, Howard, Monk

With changes taking place throughout the organization, Kemba Walker understands he may not play another game for the Hornets, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Walker, who became the leading scorer in franchise history this season, has one year left on his contract at $12MM and  could be moved this summer to bring Charlotte some much-needed cap relief.

“I have no idea,” he said when asked about his future with the Hornets. “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.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance this season while averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists in 80 games. However, the Hornets are about $17MM over the salary cap for next season and have missed the playoffs the past two years.

There’s more tonight out of Charlotte:

  • The hiring of president and GM Mitch Kupchak and the firing of coach Steve Clifford made headlines this week, but the Hornets are going through a complete overhaul throughout the organization. Most of the training staff and analytics department were dismissed along with Clifford, tweets Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports. Clifford’s assistants have been retained for now, but they will eventually be replaced (Twitter link).
  • The house cleaning extended to the G League affiliate, where head coach Noel Gillespie will not have his contract extended, the Hornets announced on their website. He compiled a 35-65 record in two seasons with the Greensboro Swarm.
  • Dwight Howard‘s track record under Clifford was an important factor in the decision to trade for him last summer, but Clifford’s departure doesn’t mean Howard will definitely be moved, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. The biggest factor for Kupchak in a potential Howard deal, Bonnell observes, is what the team would have to accept in return to match Howard’s $23.8MM salary for next season. Howard put up his best numbers in several years, averaging 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
  • Rookie guard Malik Monk has a lot of work to do this offseason after being limited last summer by a sprained ankle, Bonnell adds in the same story. He states that Monk could be in line for a starting spot if the Hornets decide to trade Walker or Nicolas Batum.

New Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak Talks Rebuilding, Kemba, Analytics, Draft

The Hornets appear to be stuck in the NBA’s no-man’s land—too good to get a top lottery pick, yet not good enough to make a real dent in the conference’s playoff race. However, despite the status, new GM Mitch Kupchak isn’t ready to undergo a full rebuild, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer relays.

“I don’t know the ins and outs much. I don’t know if that is the right word or not. To sit here and say this is a team that needs to be rebuilt, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Kupchak said at today’s introductory press conference.

The GM added he hasn’t made a decision yet on the status of coach Steve Clifford and that he doesn’t feel pressure to trade Kemba Walker.

“I don’t think [his distaste for losing is] something to overreact to. I want a player who doesn’t want to lose. That’s a good thing. I’m aware of [Walker’s comments]. Over the next several days, I will have player interviews. My understanding is he has another year under contract. It’s clearly a very favorable contract [for the team, at $12MM], but he’s going to be just fine going forward. I’m very aware of his talent. From what I hear, he’s great in the locker room and great in the community. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want that going forward.”

Kupchak talked about his approach to analytics, telling the media that if all others things are equal in evaluating a player, he’s trusting his instincts over the numbers.

“Gut instinct has been a big part of talent evaluation: watching the player, watching the player walking to the bench, how he interacts with the coach. Scouting games in person. Those things are the biggest,” he said. “Over the last 15 years, with the introduction of cameras on top of each building basically like GPS, it’s created a whole new form of data. That creates so much data every night; data uploaded every night and you have to have people to evaluate that data. That’s how the business has really changed.

“Every GM is different [as far as] confirming your instincts as a GM. If it ever was a tie I’d always go to my instincts. Might be 70-30 or 60-40.”

Charlotte is currently slotted to pick 11th in the upcoming draft, as our Reverse Standings indicate. In picking that far down the lottery, Kupchak believes the obvious strategy is simply taking the best available player.

“If we’re picking around 10 or 11, you would almost always go with the best player. If it was close, you might go with position. But you can always trade players if you have duplication,” he said.

Community Shootaround: Kemba Walker’s Future

Although he was the subject of several trade rumors leading up to last month’s deadline, Kemba Walker remained in Charlotte. With the Hornets set to land in the lottery this spring though, the Walker rumor mill figures to be revived in the coming months.

Longtime Hornets general manager Rich Cho is no longer in the picture in Charlotte, as the team is set to hire a new head of basketball operations at season’s end. That new general manager will inherit a cap sheet packed with expensive multiyear contracts, with Walker’s $12MM expiring deal easily representing the most valuable trade chip on the Hornets’ roster. Tasked with turning the franchise into a contender, the new GM could decide that moving Walker is the best way to accelerate a necessary rebuilding process.

It’s also worth considering how Walker’s latest comments differ in tone from his initial response to trade rumors back in January. At the time, the star point guard said he’d be “pretty upset” to be dealt, and talked extensively about having spent his whole career in Charlotte. Two months later, Walker’s fondness for the city likely hasn’t changed, but he sounds more pragmatic about his situation.

Earlier this month, for instance, Walker admitted that he’s not sure he has the stomach to go through another rebuilding process, noting that “nobody wants to lose.” More recently, the 27-year-old acknowledged that he’s getting tired of missing the playoffs, suggesting that winning will be his top priority going forward — including when he has to make a free agency decision in 2019.

The Hornets could certainly retool around Walker and attempt to make a playoff push in 2018/19 before eventually looking to re-sign him in 2019. However, a trade looks like a viable possibility too. In his latest piece for The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor took a closer look at the situation, identifying the Cavaliers, Bucks, Suns, and Knicks as a few teams that could make sense as trade partners if the Hornets want to deal.

What do you think the Hornets should – and will – do with Walker? Would it be misguided to move the team’s only star, or would it ultimately be the best long-term move for the organization? If the Hornets do trade Walker, do you think one of the clubs mentioned by O’Connor would be the best destination for him, or is there another team you view as an ideal fit?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Southeast Rumors: Hezonja, Schroder, Walker, Beal

Swingman Mario Hezonja hasn’t been helping his cause lately as he approaches free agency, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel notes. The Magic declined to pick up his option for the 2018/19 season last summer, which ensured Hezonja would be an unrestricted free agent in July. He is shooting 38.2% from the field and 22.4% from long range this month, in part because he’s impatient and attempts too many low-percentage shots, Robbins continues. The No. 5 pick in the 2015 draft admits he’s not sure what to expect this summer. “It’s almost impossible to know what’s going to happen,” Hezonja told Robbins. “It’s a weird situation that is great for me.”

In other developments from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks guard Dennis Schroder’s legal issues have grown, as his misdemeanor case stemming from an incident last September could be prosecuted as a felony, Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to court records, the case has been transferred to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office under a recommendation of prosecuting it as felony aggravated battery. The DA says the case remains under investigation and no decision has been made on charges, Cunningham tweets. The incident involved a scuffle at a shopping center parking lot.
  • Kemba Walker will enter unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019 and playing for a winner will be a prime consideration, as he revealed to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. The Hornets point guard says he’s tired of missing the playoffs so often after winning a national championship in 2011 with Connecticut. “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.”
  • The Wizards have slumped this month and they’re destined for an early playoff exit if they don’t pick up their play, guard Bradley Beal warned Chase Hughes of NBC Sports and other media members. Beal feels like the team isn’t trying hard enough as the regular season winds down. “It’s just the same thing over and over,” he said. “Until we do it individually and together collectively, we’re going to get our [butts] kicked in the playoffs. This isn’t even remotely acceptable, how we are playing right now.”

Southeast Notes: Walker, Hawks, Isaac, Wall

The Hornets have been one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this year. Expected to make the playoffs and owing a payroll nearing $120MM, a seldom few could have foreseen a 29-38 record through the first week and a half of March and the word “rebuild” come into the picture.

And according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, team leader and All-Star point guard Kemba Walker isn’t sure he’s prepared to undergo another rebuilding effort in Charlotte. “I’m not sure. Nobody wants to lose. Especially not me,” Walker said at practice Friday, following the Hornets’ fifth consecutive loss.

Walker, who was part of a Bobcats team (before becoming the Hornets) that went 7-59 in his rookie season, has one season left on his contract, which will pay him a team-friendly $12MM, making him a hot commodity on the trade market this summer. When asked about what the offseason may have in store, he added, “I haven’t thought about any of that. It’s something I’ve got to deal with whenever it happens. It’s just not something that has come up to me.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders takes a look at how the bottom-dwelling Hawks can go about their rebuilding efforts in a positive way. Davies opines that Atlanta is already ahead of the curve due to focusing on giving their young core of Taurean Prince and rookie big man John Collins valuable playing time and experience at the expense of veterans. The next step is bringing in a young, talented front court player such as Mohamed Bamba or DeAndre Ayton to pair with Collins.
  • Magic rookie Jonathan Isaac is trying to stay patient through the rustiness associated with returning from an injury, writes John Denton of the team’s official website. Isaac, who missed four months with an ankle injury, still has the confidence of head coach Frank Vogel, who said, “(Isaac) is a 20-year-old young man who is still finding his way on the offensive end. I encouraged him to be more aggressive than he’s been. To his credit, he plays within himself, but there’s going to be some growing pains that come along with that. I was just happy with the spirit that he played with (on Friday).”
  • The Wizards still don’t know when to expect All-Star point guard John Wall back from injury, but per an AP report (via USA Today), Wall is looking to closer to form after working out on the floor in Miami about a half-hour before the Wizards visited the Heat on Saturday night.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Walker, Magic, Wall

Speaking to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer, Hornets vice chairman Curtis Polk said he doesn’t expect to discuss the team’s coaching staff until a new general manager is hired. However, asked if he expects Steve Clifford to return for the 2018/19 season, Polk replied, “I would today.”

Polk also addressed a few other topics in his conversation with Bonnell, including the Hornets’ salary cap situation. With approximately $118MM in guaranteed salary on the books already for 2018/19, it will be very difficult for Charlotte to upgrade its roster this offseason. However, Polk told Bonnell that the team’s next GM will be tasked with keeping team salary below the tax line while improving the roster’s depth.

Here’s more from around the Southeast division:

  • Whoever becomes the next Hornets general manager may have a ticking time bomb on their hands in the form of Kemba Walker‘s 2019 free agency, says Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. As Bonnell observes, it will be virtually impossible for Charlotte to extend Walker before his contract expires, so the standout point guard willcha almost certainly reach the open market.
  • The Magic will get a pair of key players back in their lineup tonight, with Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon set to return from hand and hip injuries, respectively. John Denton has the details at the club’s official website.
  • Wizards point guard John Wall is still only 27 years old, so he has a long basketball career ahead of him and doesn’t yet known what he’ll do when his playing career is done. However, he intends to enter that stage of his life armed with a business degree. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post writes, Wall will return to the University of Kentucky this summer to work toward that degree.

Kemba Walker Replaces Kristaps Porzingis On All-Star Team

Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has been named as a reserve from the Eastern Conference for the 2018 NBA All-Star game, the team announced in a press release. Walker joins Team LeBron, replacing Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL on Tuesday.

Walker, 27, is in his seventh NBA season and will appear in his second consecutive All-Star game. In 51 games this season, Walker has averaged 22.6 PPG, 5.8 APG, 3.4 RPG for Charlotte. Walker’s name circulated in trade rumors leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline but he ultimately stayed put with the Hornets.

Injuries have hit Team LeBron hard as Walker is now the fourth replacement to join the squad. Kevin Love (broken left hand) was replaced by Heat guard Goran DragicDeMarcus Cousins (torn Achilles) was replaced by Thunder forward Paul George; and John Wall (knee surgery) was replaced by Pistons center Andre Drummond.

Trade Deadline Rumors: Carroll, Kings, Lakers, C’s

The Nets and Pacers have considered a deal that would send DeMarre Carroll to Indiana in exchange for Al Jefferson, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. The deal would be a way for Brooklyn to clear money for next season, as Carroll is owed $15.4MM, while Jefferson has a $10MM salary that’s only partially guaranteed.

Carroll, who was traded to the Nets over the summer, is averaging career highs in scoring (13.2), rebounds (6.4) and assists (1.9). Jefferson has settled into a reserve role since coming to Indiana two years ago and is averaging 6.7 points and 3.9 assists in 26 games.

There’s more to report as the trade deadline draws closer:

  • The Kings are willing to move second-year center Georgios Papagiannis if they need to open a roster spot to complete a larger trade, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link). However, Sacramento has since agreed to trade Malachi Richardson in a deal that seems designed to open up a roster spot.
  • With Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis both battling injuries, the Suns may be interested in a minor deal for point guard help, tweets Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Josh Gray is the only healthy option currently on the roster.
  • The Lakers appear to be done with major deals after acquiring Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye from the Cavaliers, relays Bill Oram of the SoCalNewsGroup (Twitter link). Oram adds that a minor trade could still be in the works.
  • The Celtics remain engaged on several trade fronts, but continue to be reluctant to include a first-round pick in a deal, sources tell Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
  • The Cavaliers weren’t able to gain any traction with the Hornets on a Kemba Walker trade before pulling the trigger on a series of separate deals, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Hornets Michael Jordan places a high value on Walker and won’t move him cheaply, Woj adds. Jordan said in a recent interview that he wouldn’t part with Walker “for anything but an All-Star player.”

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Hornets Notes: Walker, Graham, Cho, Hernangomez

The Hornets haven’t changed their public stance about trading Kemba Walker, according to Rick Bonnell and Brendan Marks of The Charlotte Observer. In a conference call earlier today, GM Rich Cho emphasized that the team is open to offers but isn’t actively trying to deal its leading scorer.

“We’re not shopping Kemba, but it’s our job to listen,” Cho said. “It would take something really great to move him. We love Kemba. He’s a great player, All-Star caliber. It wouldn’t surprise me if we did do something, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t do something.”

The Hornets are frequent dealers near the deadline, acquiring Courtney Lee, Josh McRoberts and Mo Williams in recent years. Team owner Michael Jordan recently said he “would not trade (Walker) for anything but an All-Star player,” but financial considerations may affect that stance. Walker has one more season left at the bargain price of $12MM and will likely be seeking a max deal in the summer of 2019.

There’s more news today out of Charlotte:

  • Second-year forward Treveon Graham has been a pleasant surprise this season, but cap concerns may prevent the Hornets from keeping him in free agency, Bonnell writes in a separate story. Graham is making a little more than $1.3MM this year, but Charlotte has to be careful about any spending with more than $116MM in guaranteed money already committed for next season. “If I were a coach, Treveon Graham would be on my team every single time,” said teammate Marvin Williams. “I know [coach Steve Clifford] has a certain level of comfort with him, and we do, too, as players.”
  • Cho may have concerns about his future in Charlotte if the Hornets don’t make the playoffs, Bonnell adds in a mailbag column. Former Lakers GM and North Carolina alum Mitch Kupchak has been floated as a possible replacement, and Bonnell suggests ex-Cavaliers and Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Pistons GM Jeff Bower as well.
  • The Hornets are happy to take a chance on second-year center Willy Hernangomez, who was acquired today in a trade with the Knicks, according to a story on the team’s website. Hernangomez has found playing time hard to come by this season, but Charlotte is encouraged by the numbers he put up as a rookie. “We’re excited to add a player of Willy’s caliber to our team,” Cho said. “He showed last season that he can contribute when given the opportunity and we believe that the added depth he provides will benefit our frontcourt rotation.”

Woj/Lowe On Blazers, Jordan, Cavs, Hornets

With the February 8 trade deadline right around the corner, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski appeared this morning on Zach Lowe’s Lowe Post podcast to address some rumors and discuss some trade possibilities for teams around the NBA. While Wojnarowski and Lowe didn’t drop any bombshells during their hour-long conversation, the duo did share several items of note, so let’s dive in and round up some highlights…

  • Although the Trail Blazers had interest in Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, Wojnarowski hears that Portland has “backed away” as of late. According to Woj, it’s “entirely possible” that Jordan won’t get traded at all this week — the Clips may prefer to simply let him walk in free agency rather than taking on a bad contract or two in order to get a late first-round pick back in a trade.
  • Wojnarowski and Lowe discussed Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick at length, exploring what sort of deal would entice the Cavaliers to surrender that first-rounder. The duo agreed that Cleveland wouldn’t offer it to the Clippers for Jordan. In Woj’s view, it would take a Paul George-type veteran or a young star on a rookie contract to get the Cavs to part with that pick, but that sort of player isn’t really available.
  • The Cavaliers and Hornets have “definitely talked,” with those conversations presumed to have focused on Kemba Walker. That doesn’t mean that any deal is likely though, as virtually every team with any sort of need at point guard has checked in with the Hornets about Walker, per Wojnarowski.
  • Despite ongoing speculation that they’ll need to break up their star backcourt at some point, the Trail Blazers have “summarily rejected” any inquiries on Damian Lillard and/or C.J. McCollum, says Lowe. Maurice Harkless is a more realistic trade candidate in Portland, according to Wojnarowski, who says the Kings are one team that has had interest in Harkless in the past.
  • While the Nets aren’t necessarily looking to trade Spencer Dinwiddie, they’d have to consider it if they could get a first-round pick, according to Lowe. Woj agreed with that assessment.