Kemba Walker isn’t particularly bossy.
That’s not to say the Charlotte Hornets’ point guard lacks assertiveness. But typically Walker would rather be known for his actions than his words.
So it was a departure last month when Walker wrote an essay for the Player’s Tribune addressing gun violence and social justice issues. Inspired by several NBA superstars speaking out during the ESPYs, Walker took on a summer filled with tragic events.
"It just had to be said. There are so many things going on in this world that are unbelievable. A lot of gun violence and police brutality.," Walker said Wednesday.
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"I have that platform now. People will read things I put out and I (wanted others to know) that I’ve got hope."
Walker has now spent six years as a Charlottean and it feels like home. The basketball camp he is holding this week in Indian Trail has a high percentage of free slots for underprivileged youth. Walker had those opportunities growing up in New York and he knows these experiences are about more than dribbling and shooting.
"It’s very important to inspire the next generation. I want these kids to be as successful as possible," Walker said.
"Not everyone is going to play basketball (professionally), but it’s not about that. These camps are about life lessons: making friends, working hard, learning how to pay attention. Small things that will help kids in their lives.
"A lot of kids don’t get a chance to be around NBA players a lot. So for me to be here for a few hours, interacting with these guys, is extremely fun."
Walker had a breakthrough season in 2015-16, voted runner-up for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He averaged career bests in scoring (20.9 points per game) and 3-point percentage (37.1 percent).
Much of that improvement was his doing, but it was also about the presence of Nic Batum and Jeremy Lin to take some play-making burden off Walker’s hands.
Batum will be back, signing a five-year $120 million contract. Walker was part of the sales pitch, flying to Dallas for the July 1 meeting that finalized Batum’s return.
But in a free-agent summer of hard choices, the Hornets said goodbye to Lin, Walker’s backup, plus center Al Jefferson and shooting guard Courtney Lee.
"It sucks," Walker said of free-agent losses.
"But that’s the business: You’re always going to play with some new guys every year. You think about Big Al, who I wish we could have kept. He helped change this franchise around big time from the day he got here."
Walker has very mixed emotions about Lin signing with the Brooklyn Nets.
"I hate to see him go, but at the same time I’m definitely happy for him," Walker said. "He deserves to be a starter in this league. He’s such a great player and he proved that last season. There were games where I was off and he carried the team."
Walker likes the moves the front office made to restock the roster. He sees guards Ramon Sessions and Marco Belinelli as proven scorers. He is particularly curious about center Roy Hibbert.
"I think, if he can get back to the level he once was at, he can be a huge help to us."
Walker says he’s fully recovered from off-season surgery on his left knee, which was elective and intended to relieve some chronic pain.
He has seen early predictions that list the Hornets as iffy to make the playoffs. His reaction? Thanks for the inspiration.
"I’m sure already everyone is writing us off, especially with the guys we lost," Walker said.