Kemba Walker

Hornets Notes: Roster Opening, Walker, Bridges

The Hornets are one of 10 teams set to enter the 2018/19 regular season with an open 15-man roster spot. As Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer relays, president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak said on Monday morning that he hadn’t seen any players waived by another team that were serious candidates to help the club and fill that 15th spot.

While that could change based on the players who were cut later on Monday, it appears Charlotte is happy leaving an opening on its roster for now, saving some money and maximizing flexibility.

Here are a few more Hornets notes, courtesy of Kupchak (by way of Bonnell):

  • Kupchak doesn’t expect the Hornets to be involved in any trades over the next several weeks. Of course, once rosters are set for the season, the league-wide trade market isn’t typically too active for a little while, but it’s still worth noting, given that Kupchak made several deals in the offseason.
  • Asked about Kemba Walker‘s free agency in 2019, Kupchak reiterated in strong terms that the franchise would like to see its longtime point guard remain in Charlotte beyond this season. “Our hope is that Kemba ends his career in a Hornets uniform, and that’s the end of it,” he said.
  • Given how many veterans remain on the Hornets’ roster, Kupchak believes vying for the playoffs is still a more realistic short-term path for the organization than blowing things up. “If you have a lot of veteran players, then you’re looking to make the playoffs,” he said.
  • Kupchak views rim protection and rebounding as areas of relative concern for Charlotte, per Bonnell.
  • While Kupchak was pleased with how good Miles Bridges looked in the preseason, he wants to keep expectations for the rookie forward in check, cautioning that there will be a “learning curve” for Bridges once the regular season begins.

Lowe’s Latest: Kings, Butler, Sixers, Lee, Klay

In his final piece previewing the 2018/19 NBA campaign, ESPN’s Zach Lowe offers up a few dozen bold predictions for the coming season. He also relays several tidbits of note on trade candidates and 2019 free-agents-to-be within those predictions, so we’re going to dive in and round up some of the highlights…

  • Lowe is skeptical that the Kings will be able to use their $11MM in remaining cap room to land a first-round pick, since he hears from sources that the team is wary about taking on multiple years of bad money.
  • Although teams like the Heat, Nets, and Clippers have been cited as Jimmy Butler‘s preferred destinations, the Timberwolves wing also “has eyes” for the Sixers, per Lowe. However, sources tell ESPN that Philadelphia has shown “almost no interest” in trading for Butler.
  • The Knicks are still trying to trade Courtney Lee, sources tell Lowe. While it’s not clear if they’ve made progress in any trade talks, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer notes that Lee has generated interest, adding that the Hornets discussed a trade for the veteran swingman at last season’s deadline.
  • Klay Thompson – who will be a free agent in 2019 – has no plans to accept a discount on his next contract, and the Warriors don’t expect him to, reports Lowe. Still, O’Connor says that sources he has spoken to would be “shocked” if Thompson left Golden State.
  • It’s a moot point now, but if LeBron James had committed to staying with the Cavaliers this summer, Cleveland would have sent the No. 8 pick in the draft to the Hornets as part of a trade package for Kemba Walker, according to Lowe.

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Kemba Walker Wants To Stay In Charlotte

Hornets guard Kemba Walker is happy in Charlotte and has no desire to join a “super team,” according to an Associated Press report.

Walker made the comments today at the team’s media day, offering some insight into his plans for next summer. He will be part of a stellar free agent class in 2019 and is in position to earn a huge raise from the $12MM he will make this season.

“You see guys who are on elite teams,” Walker said. “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.”

Walker has spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Charlotte after being taken with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. The leading scorer in franchise history, Walker expressed confidence that the Hornets will make a strong effort to re-sign him, saying, “I just have that feeling.”

Western Rumors: Rozier, Williams, Durant, Rockets

The Celtics’ Terry Rozier and the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie are two of the logical trade targets for the Suns in their search for a point guard, according to Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Rozier is a solid two-way player coming off a career year but the Suns would likely have to offer a package that included an unprotected first-rounder to catch Boston’s attention. A trade for Dinwiddie would be more plausible and he’d be a good fit with Phoenix considering his size, perimeter shooting and pick-and-roll prowess, Urbina continues. The Clippers’ Patrick Beverley, the Cavaliers’ George Hill and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker are some of the other names Urbina throws out as potential targets. The Suns are searching for a starting point guard after trading away Brandon Knight to the Rockets last week.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Pelicans signed Troy Williams, Kenrich Williams and Garlon Green to partially-guaranteed contracts in the hope of finding one reliable small forward, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate notes. That trio will compete for a roster spot, though the potential addition of swingman Tyrone Wallacesigned to an offer sheet on Monday — could change that. “They just told me they’re bringing some guys in and having them go head-on to see who wins a spot,” Kenrich Williams told Kushner.
  • By buying out Luol Deng‘s contract and using the stretch provision, the Lakers gave themselves a chance to offer Kevin Durant a max salary in free agency, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders examines. The Lakers now project to have $38.2MM in cap space, which would be just enough to afford Durant, Pincus continues. If they can’t land Durant, they’ll certainly have enough to bring in another All-Star level talent. Other high-level potential free agents, including Kawhi Leonard, Klay ThompsonDeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Walker and Kyrie Irving, could command a first-year salary of $33MM, leaving the Lakers with another $5MM to spend in other ways, Pincus adds.
  • The Rockets took a frugal approach this summer and it could cost them a title, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post opines. They traded away Ryan Anderson and allowed two key wing players to walk in free agency. In turn, they signed three players on veteran’s minimum deals and adding a couple of bench players in the Anderson trade, Bontemps notes. So while Houston execs had said they were unconcerned about the luxury tax, their actions showed they wanted to save some money, Bontemps adds.

Suns Have Tried To Trade For Point Guard

With Brandon Knight headed to Houston in a four-player trade, the Suns‘ point guard depth chart looks thinner than ever. According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), Phoenix has made an effort to address the position by attempting to trade for a starting point guard, but hasn’t had any luck so far.

Gambadoro names Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, and Terry Rozier as a few of the point guards the Suns have been targeting, though he doesn’t provide much more details beyond that. Even if the Suns made inquiries on those players, I can’t imagine their conversation with the Trail Blazers for Lillard, for instance, went very far.

The Hornets and Celtics may have been a little more receptive to discussions involving their point guards, who are entering contract years, but it would certainly still take a substantial offer to pry Walker away from Charlotte or to get Rozier out of Boston.

While Gambadoro suggests that the Suns “will have to make a trade,” he notes that the Bucks’ first-round pick owed to Phoenix isn’t particularly valuable as a trade chip, given its protections. The Suns could put some combination of their own first-rounders or young prospects on the table in a trade offer, but it’s not clear how aggressive the team is willing to be in the short term — it’s possible the club will see what it can get out of its current point guards to start the season, perhaps revisiting the trade market closer to the deadline.

With Knight no longer in the mix, the Suns’ point guard group includes Shaquille Harrison and Isaiah Canaan, who are both on non-guaranteed contracts, and rookies De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo. Canaan has the most NBA experience of the bunch, but he’s coming off a major leg injury. Melton and Okobo, of course, have yet to make their respective NBA debuts, while Harrison has appeared in just 23 regular season contests.

Hornets Notes: Kidd-Gilchrist, Howard, Bridges, Jordan

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely have a reduced role under new coach James Borrego and may not last the entire season with the Hornets, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer in a question-and-answer column. Since being taken second overall in the 2012 draft, Kidd-Gilchrist has started all but four of the games in which he has appeared during his six seasons in Charlotte, but his position may be in jeopardy.

Bonnell cites “offensive limitations” that will make him less appealing with Borrego in charge. In a league where most forwards are expected to help stretch the defense, Kidd-Gilchrist only attempted two 3-pointers last season and is 7 for 36 from long distance for his career.

With a $13MM contract for this season and a $13MM player option for 2019/20, Kidd-Gilchrist won’t be easy to move. Bonnell speculates that GM Mitch Kupchak might have more success around the trade deadline, but still may have to take on long-term salary in return.

Bonnell passes on more Hornets information in the same piece:

  • Borrego emphasizes quick decision making on offense, which is among the reasons Dwight Howard was traded away after a productive season. The new coach wants constant movement and doesn’t like to see players holding onto the ball while deciding their next move. Howard is often criticized for slowing down the offense with his low-post game.
  • The Hornets may not be in a hurry to make trades before training camp opens next month because Borrego would like some time to evaluate his players to see who best fits his system.
  • First-round pick Miles Bridges will be used primarily at small forward, but Borrego may experiment with him as a stretch four during preseason. Bonnell notes that Bridges dropped about 20 pounds between college and Summer League, where he showed that he can distribute the ball and create mismatches.
  • Team owner Michael Jordan shouldn’t be judged harshly for the Hornets’ failure to attract free agents. The organization is well over the salary cap, and Charlotte doesn’t offer the natural advantages that some other cities do. Bonnell states that if Jordan were running the Lakers, he would have been just as successful as Magic Johnson when it came to luring LeBron James.
  • Jordan can’t circumvent the salary cap to give extra money to impending free agent Kemba Walker through his shoe deal. Walker is a paid endorser of the Jordan Brand, as are some other Hornets, but the league laid out rules against using that to get around the cap way back when Jordan first got a stake in the Wizards.

Kemba Walker Discusses His Future, Knicks’ Possibilities

Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has said in the past that he doubts he’ll end up with the Knicks once he’s eligible for free agency. He touched on the subject yet again during a visit to the Player’s Association’s kids camp in New York City.

“I’ve been hearing it for years now — the Knicks,” Walker said (via Marc Berman of The New York Post). “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.”

As for what the future holds, Walker said he doesn’t “have a clue,” while hinting that a Knicks offer next summer might be tempting.

“Got to see. We got to see. I’ve never been free, never been a free agent. We’ll see.” Walker added. “I have no idea. I’ve never been a free agent. I don’t know how the process works. I will have options unless Charlotte gets something done.”

Walker has one year and $12MM remaining on his contract.

Kemba Walker Doubts He’ll End Up With Knicks

Kemba Walker wants to stay long-term with the Hornets and doubts he’ll wind up with the Knicks, he told Michael Scotto of The Athletic.

The Charlotte point guard and New York native is heading into his walk year and has a very movable $12MM contract. Cleveland has been oft-mentioned as a potential landing spot if he gets traded.

The Knicks have several point guard options, including Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina, but Walker would generally be considered an upgrade.

“As far as seeing me in New York, I doubt it,” Walker told Scotto. “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).”

Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak has said he’d like to retain Walker but a contract extension isn’t feasible due to salary-cap restraints. Thus, Walker is headed to free agency next summer if he doesn’t get traded.

The Hornets have a stopgap option in Tony Parker, who agreed to a two-year, $10MM contract in free agency. Walker welcomes Parker’s presence and hopes to learn a few new tricks from the wily 36-year-old.

“Having Tony Parker is huge,” Walker told Scotto. “He’s a guy who’s been through it all. He knows a lot. He’s won championships. He knows what it takes to win in this league. I don’t think there’s any better point guard to learn from than Tony Parker.”

Hornets Notes: Monk, Staff, Bacon, Parker

After undertaking a limited and somewhat disappointing role last season as a rookie, second-year guard Malik Monk has been told by the Hornets’ new coaching staff that he needs to make quicker, more decisive choices with the ball in order to maximize his talent and athleticism, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

Monk, 20, was selected 11th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft before suffering an ankle sprain that cost him summer league work before his first NBA training camp. Due in part to that lack of experience, Monk was in and out of the Hornets’ rotation all season long, finishing with an average of 6.7 points per game on 36 percent shooting from the field.

But despite whatever troubles he may have experienced during his rookie season, Monk will have plenty of opportunity to step into a bigger role this season, per head coach James Borrego.

“Malik Monk is a major player for us next (season)… I knew he was a shooter but being up close to him is impressive. This guy has a chance to be an elite shooter, a very consistent shooter. Someone we can play through for different stretches of a game.”

As for how Monk feels about Borrego and the new coaching staff, the good feelings seem to be mutual, with Monk saying, “I love them. They’re opening up the court for me and giving me a chance. That’s what I’ve been looking for.”

There’s more out of Charlotte this evening:

  • Speaking of the new coaching staff, the Hornets have officially hired Jay Triano, Chad Iske, Jay Hernandez, Ronald Nored, and Dutch Gaitley as assistant coaches under Borrego, per an official press release from the team.
  • Another young player the Hornets believe in is second-year player Dwayne Bacon, Bonnell notes in another piece. The new staff believes that Bacon, the 40th overall selection in last year’s draft, is both talented offensively and versatile defensively and that he will benefit from an increased pace of play.
  • As we relayed yesterday, the Hornets may be in the market for another guard to play alongside Monk and All-Star Kemba Walker, with free agent guard Tony Parker no longer necessarily a lock to return to San Antonio.