Charlotte Hornets

How the Charlotte Hornets’ direction will decide whether Tony Parker returns next season

Tony Parker on his future with the Hornets and Kemba Walker’s, too

France’s Tony Parker doesn’t want to be back with the Hornets if they go into a rebuild mode. He says the Hornets readiness to be competitive next season could weigh heavily also on Kemba Walker’s free agency decision.
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France’s Tony Parker doesn’t want to be back with the Hornets if they go into a rebuild mode. He says the Hornets readiness to be competitive next season could weigh heavily also on Kemba Walker’s free agency decision.

Tony Parker says it’s “50-50” whether he’s back with the Charlotte Hornets next season, and his decision will come down to whether the team goes into rebuild mode.

“I don’t want to play on a rebuilding team. I want to play on a team that fights for the playoffs, at least,” said Parker, who just completed his 18th NBA season and should be a lock to end up in the Hall of Fame.

Parker spent his previous 17 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, winning four championships. This season was his first that didn’t end in the playoffs. He signed with Charlotte last summer in part to support former Spurs assistant James Borrego’s first season as Hornets coach.

Parker is under contract to the Hornets for next season, but he could choose to retire or ask the Hornets for his release to sign elsewhere. The Hornets front office demonstrating an intent to try to win soon, rather than rebuild, figures to be a major factor in whether All-Star point guard Kemba Walker chooses to re-sign.

“I think for Kemba, that’s a decision he’s gonna have to make, too,” Parker added. “Does he want to try to play for a championship? Does he want to play for a team that is at least competitive and try to make the playoffs? That’s not an easy decision, and only he will know the answer.”

Parker didn’t play the last 13 games of the season, as Borrego looked to get rookie Devonte Graham a heavy dose of experience. Borrego said that had the Hornets qualified for the playoffs, there was a strong possibility Parker would have gone back into the rotation.

Parker said the Hornets want him back next season, and that would be for both basketball and business reasons. He’s been an excellent mentor to Graham and second-year shooting guard Malik Monk. Also, the Hornets will play a regular-season game in Paris against the Milwaukee Bucks in Paris, and Parker is an iconic athlete in France.

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Borrego said Parker’s presence has been invaluable.

“Tony has been great. I would love to have him back,” Borrego said. “He gave me and us more than I ever thought going into the season.”

Opt-outs

Three Hornets veterans with large salaries next season — Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — have options in their contracts that allow them to be free agents this summer, but in each case it would entail giving up huge guaranteed salaries: $17 million for Biyombo, $15 million for Williams and $13 million for Kidd-Gilchrist.

Williams said there’s no way he intends to opt-out. Biyombo sounded unlikely to opt-out. Kidd-Gilchrist said he hasn’t thought about his contract, but added that “happiness” is his priority, not just “money.”

Kidd-Gilchrist is about to be a father. His fiancee’s pregnancy was related to his missing games recently for a personal issue.

He was mostly a reserve this season after being a starter in his first six seasons with the Hornets. There were four games this season when he didn’t play, by coach’s decision, which was unprecedented for the former No. 2 overall draft pick.

Here and there

Two Hornets free agents-to-be — Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky — said they’d both like to be back in Charlotte. Lamb is coming off a career-best season that included three game-winning shots (one of them the 50-foot heave in Toronto). Kaminsky is at the end of his rookie-scale contract, and the Hornets can restrict his free agency by making a qualifying offer of about $5 million next season.

Hornets center Cody Zeller missed the last 16 games of the season with a sore left knee. He said Thursday there is no indication he needs more surgery on that knee, which was operated on last season. Zeller said the swelling, which was the biggest thing keeping him from playing, has gone away, and he needs a couple of weeks of rest before offseason training. Zeller said it’s frustrating that again his health is the biggest thing going into the offseason. He also broke his right hand in January, and had surgery that inserted six permanent screws to stabilize the fracture.

Monk said his summer goal is to gain about 10 pounds of muscle to better handle the physicality he encounters in the NBA. Borrego said Monk’s current 33 percent from 3-point range should rise in coming seasons, closer to 40 percent.

Borrego said he definitely anticipates Graham playing on the Hornets’ summer league team in Las Vegas in July. Whether the other young players — Miles Bridges, Dwayne Bacon and Monk — will be on the summer league roster is still to be determined. Bacon said the young guys now get together for group dinners, and Walker has become part of their group. Their nickname: “Kemba and the Avengers.”

Nic Batum (France) and Willy Hernangomez (Spain) both said they anticipate playing for their national teams late-summer in China.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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