Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller on Monday summed up the departure of Kemba Walker well.
“He’s going to be good for Boston and like Boston,” Zeller said, “but it sucks for me a little bit.”
All six of Zeller’s prior NBA seasons were spent with Walker, the Hornets all-time scorer who signed with the Boston Celtics in July. In addition to being a three-time All-Star, Walker became a mentor to many of the team’s younger players. No current Hornet was on the roster prior to Charlotte drafting Walker in 2011.
“Even in September workouts, when we had most of our guys here, it just felt like something was missing, like our team wasn’t there,” Zeller said of Walker’s absence. “The plane trips, the bus rides, will be different without Kemba. I spent six years with him and most of my minutes on the court were with him. We played well together.”
As big an impact as Walker had as a player — 12,009 career points and numerous team records — veteran power forward Marvin Williams said his loss felt more personal than strategic because of Walker’s magnetic personality. Williams said Walker will host ex-teammates for dinner Saturday night in Boston before a preseason game against Charlotte.
“We’ll stay in touch with him. And we’ll eat his food Saturday night,” Williams said at media day before training camp starts Tuesday in Chapel Hill.
“He’s going to be the greatest Hornet ever. I think he will always be remembered that way, and he deserves it.”
When Walker entered free-agency, Zeller jokingly erected a lemonade stand for a Twitter picture, as a pseudo-fundraiser to keep Walker in Charlotte. How’d he do?
“The kids on the street were pretty good negotiators, so I gave away a lot of free ones,” Zeller said. “That wasn’t in the business plan. So I didn’t make any money.”
Hornets’ forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chose to opt into a $13 million contract guarantee for this year, rather than pursue free agency, which probably wouldn’t have been nearly so lucrative entering his eighth NBA season. Kidd-Gilchrist said he opted in for his family’s financial security.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Kidd-Gilchrist was used sparingly last season by coach James Borrego. He started a career-low three games and didn’t play in four games; the first time in his career he didn’t play when available.
Borrego has said he’ll be playing young guys more this season, with the Hornets in a post-Walker rebuild. Where does Kidd-Gilchrist fit into Borrego’s plans?
“I don’t know,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
Have they communicated with him much about that?
“No comment,” Kidd-Gilchrist replied.
It seems unlikely a team would absorb Kidd-Gilchrist’s salary this season in a trade. What could be more feasible is a buyout, where he’d give up some of his guaranteed money, possibly after the February trade deadline, to sign elsewhere.
Shooting guard Malik Monk’s primary off-season goal was to add weight and muscle. He said Monday he now weighs 205 pounds, after being at 182 at the end of last season.
“I feel way different. In pick-up (games) I don’t get moved off my spot easily,” said Monk, who struggled holding his ground physically his first two seasons with the Hornets.
Monk chose not to play in Las Vegas summer league, despite coaches and some teammates coaxing him to do so. Monk said his decision was partially his focus on the weight room.
“To get strong, to stay in the gym working on what I’d been doing,” Monk said when asked about passing on summer league. “I’m pretty sure people will see I got a little bit bigger.”
The Hornets announced they are adding another uniform to their rotation this season; a purple one with the letters “CHA” as the chest insignia, in white with a teal outline.
That caused some fan confusion and push-back on Twitter and elsewhere, with many noting that “CLT” is typically the abbreviation for Charlotte (as in the airport).
A Hornets spokesman said “CHA” is the NBA’s official designation for the Hornets, as in when scores run on a crawl on television.