Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has been compared to Kobe Bryant for his competitive zeal. Is a player with Walker’s makeup receptive to riding out another major rebuild?
“I’m not sure. Nobody wants to lose. Especially not me,” Walker said at practice Friday, following the Hornets’ fifth consecutive loss Thursday, at home against the Brooklyn Nets.
Walker is a two-time All-Star and by far this team’s best player and overall asset. He has one season left on his contract, which will pay him a thrifty $12 million for the 2018-19 season.
The Hornets are 28-38 and appear all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for a second consecutive season. Walker is in his NBA prime, averaging 23 points and 5.3 assists. He would be a most attractive trade commodity this summer, since the team acquiring him would get a one-season audition at a bargain price before deciding whether to invest heavily when Walker becomes an unrestricted free agent in July 2019.
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Hornets owner Michael Jordan will hire a new general manager in the coming weeks, replacing Rich Cho, who was informed last month his contract would not be renewed. The next head of basketball operations will have to decide whether to break up this veteran group over time, similarly to how the then-Bobcats did when they traded Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson, before Walker was drafted in 2011.
The Bobcats went 7-59 Walker’s rookie season, the worst single-season winning percentage in NBA history. Walker and then-teammate Gerald Henderson went to new coach Steve Clifford determined to change all that, because those two so detested losing.
So it’s no surprise Walker would sound iffy when asked if he’s prepared to serve as a bridge star, should Hornets management choose to tear this roster down and start over.
Walker said he and his teammates haven’t talked much, if at all, about what might come next once this season is completed in mid-April.
“I haven’t thought about any of that,” Walker said. “It’s something I’ve got to deal with whenever it happens. It’s just not something that has come up to me.”
It soon will. And the next general manager will need a clear answer from Walker to form a plan for this franchise’s direction.