Scott Fowler

Kemba Walker hates what happened to the NBA’s All-Star Game because of HB2

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, but he has mixed feelings about what he is going to experience this weekend in New Orleans.
Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, but he has mixed feelings about what he is going to experience this weekend in New Orleans. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Kemba Walker has finally made it to NBA All-Star Weekend for the first time as a player, and there’s no doubt he’s very excited about that. But the Charlotte Hornets’ biggest star also expressed remorse Friday for what might have been on a weekend that was originally supposed to be all about Charlotte.

The NBA decided last summer to move the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and all the accompanying events from Charlotte to New Orleans when North Carolina instituted and then did not quickly repeal HB2 – the controversial law that limits legal protections for LGBT people.

When a reporter asked Walker Friday in New Orleans what his feeling was about the All-Star Game being moved out of his home arena, Walker said: “I hated it. I hated it. It sucks. I would have loved to have been at home in Charlotte. ... But unfortunately we can’t. Now we’re here in New Orleans, and I’m really excited just to achieve this accomplishment. But, yeah, it definitely sucks to not be in Charlotte.”

Walker will participate in the 3-point contest on Saturday and then play in the All-Star Game on Sunday. Making the first event is a testament to his improved shooting – early in his career, all NBA teams dared Walker to shoot from 3-point range because he was so mediocre doing so.

“To actually be a part of one of these events is super cool, especially the 3-point contest,” Walker said. “I would never in a million years thought I would be in a 3-point contest, but I am.”

As for the game, Walker said he looks forward to it and that he knows it’s just for fun. He joked that he hoped that all five Eastern Conference point guards would be on the floor at the same moment, and that if that happens he volunteered to play center.

The weekend will provide a welcome bit of joy for Walker, who hasn’t shown much of that on the court lately. The Hornets (24-32) limp into the All-Star break having gone 1-10 over their past 11 games and would be out of the playoffs if they started today. Walker also has not been playing as well as he did early in the season, when he cemented his All-Star berth.

But the weekend will nevertheless be a nice change of pace for him. Walker tabbed defending champion Klay Thompson as the front-runner for Saturday night’s 3-point contest and predicted that there will be little rim-protecting in the All-Star Game Sunday night.

“Unless the game is close and it gets to the fourth quarter, I’m not sure there will be too much defense,” Walker said.

Walker also reiterated that he agreed with the NBA’s decision to move the 2017 game out of the Queen City – the NBA has said that Charlotte will get to host the 2019 All-Star Game if HB2 is repealed in a timely fashion.

“I think it’s important,” Walker said of the NBA decision. “I’m glad they did what they did. They had to do what they had to do.”

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