Along with being an All-Star point guard, the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker is quite a salesman.
Walker pitched the merits of free-agent point guard Michael Carter-Williams all over the Hornets’ basketball operation. He also networked with his agent, Jeff Schwartz, who also represents Carter-Williams.
Mission accomplished. Over the weekend, the Hornets came to agreement with Carter-Williams on a one-year, $2.7 million deal. That can be formalized with a contract signing Friday, when the NBA’s annual moratorium ends.
Carter-Williams is a former NBA Rookie of the Year, but he’s about to play for his fourth team in five seasons. His most recent team, the Chicago Bulls, chose not to make a qualifying offer to restrict his free agency. Hence, Carter-Williams was on the open market.
The Hornets’ biggest need was a backup point guard, after the team chose not to exercise an option of nearly $6.3 million for Ramon Sessions.
Walker said he took the initiative to sell everyone – the front office, the coaching staff and Carter-Williams – on what a good fit this could be.
“I’m the one who got that deal done,” Walker said after an appearance at the Hornets’ summer basketball camp at Charlotte Latin. “I’m the one who called Jeff, I’m the one who talked to MCW. I spoke to everybody - MJ (owner Michael Jordan), Rich (Cho, the general manager).
“Why wouldn’t you want a guy who was rookie of the year? He’s 6-6. I’ve played against him over the years, and I think he’s a really special talent.”
Carter-Williams was a college star at Syracuse and the 11th overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. His rookie season was clearly his best , as he averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds.
Since then he’s been traded twice, from Philadelphia to Milwaukee and Milwaukee to Chicago. He didn’t have much of a role with the Bulls this past season, averaging 6.6 points and 2.5 assists in 45 games.
Walker believes the Hornets’ culture – the players and the coaching staff led by Steve Clifford – can restore Carter-Williams’ productivity. Clifford had similar success in the past, when Jeremy Lin and Nic Batum arrived in Charlotte following disappointing seasons.
“I just think our culture is where he needs to be. He needs guys like me around him. He needs Marvin (Williams) around him. He needs MKG (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) around him, to show him what it takes to get better in this league, what it takes to win.
“He’s hungry, he feels he has to prove himself. I don’t think there is any other situation he should be in, but with us.”
How adamant was Walker about Carter-Williams being his backup?
“I went to them,” Walker said. “I went to everybody in the front office. We got him and it’s going to be fun.”
Walker expressed elation over the roster additions the Hornets have made: the trade for center Dwight Howard and drafting Kentucky guard Malik Monk in the first round and Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon in the second round.
“A whole different team,” Walker said. “I was pretty surprised we got Dwight. And we got two new young players who should be studs. I expect a lot from those two. I don’t want to hear anything about them being rookies.”
Specifically, Walker said Howard will bring rim protection the Hornets have long missed.
“He changes shots,” Walker said. “Just his presence in the paint will help a lot. We haven’t had anybody like him. I think he’ll get back to his old self.
“I think we have the culture around him, the right kind of players, and we have Cliff, who is going to help him, to be honest with him.”
Walker, who watches college basketball extensively, saw a lot of Monk in his one season at Kentucky.
“I didn’t think we’d get him. By the 11th pick I thought he’d be gone,” Walker said. “I said, ‘They’d better take him!’ All Charlotte Hornets fans should be excited about him.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell