Scott Fowler

Trade Kemba Walker? Don’t be ridiculous, Charlotte Hornets

Just when you were sure the Carolina Panthers had taken the permanent hometown lead for most dysfunctional front office, here come the Charlotte Hornets with a late and ludicrous charge.

The Hornets are doing something ridiculous – shopping their best and most dazzling player in Kemba Walker ahead of the Feb. 8 NBA trade deadline.

According to an ESPN report, the Hornets are “encouraging teams to make offers” on Walker with the idea of also unloading one of their bad contracts in a proposed deal and getting a first-round draft pick or promising young player in return.

To which I say: You’ve gotta be kidding.

Trade Kemba?!

He’s just about the only reason people go to Hornets games anymore. Did you know the Charlotte Checkers had to play a home game this past week but not allow any fans to come due to the bad weather? That sort of atmosphere will be status quo for the Hornets for home games if they ship Walker away.

I understand the team needs to be dramatically altered. But Walker is part of the solution, not the problem. He is the rare Hornet who is actually outperforming his contract.

Kemba Walker (15) is on the trading block, according to an ESPN report. Jeff Siner

Walker is the sixth-highest-paid Hornet this season – behind Dwight Howard, Nic Batum, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller. But he is the team’s leading scorer (21.7 per game) and the player who shapes the team’s culture more than any other. He is also signed through 2019 at that bargain price of $12 million a season – again, we’re talking make-believe NBA money here.

Look, you can trade anybody else on this roster. That’s fine. And apparently, the Hornets are open to offers for everyone else, too, as they should be.

But general manager Rich Cho, staring at the end of his own contract following this season, isn’t going to save his job by trading Walker. He will simply earn a permanent spot in the Hornets’ Hall of Shame as “The Guy Who Traded Kemba,” which will become the top line on a résumé that already includes Cho starring as “The Guy Who Wanted Lance Stephenson” and “The Guy Who Traded for Miles Plumlee.”

Yes, you could get another No. 1 draft pick out of a Walker trade, but so what? Do you think the Hornets would really use that pick wisely? The player the Hornets picked would almost surely will be a player who isn’t as good as Walker, a 2017 all-star and a survivor of the mostly awful “Bobcat years” who also plays one of the most important positions in basketball as a point guard.

Charlotte Hornets Kemba Walker poses for a portrait during the team's media day in 2017. David T. Foster III

Walker, who has played for the Hornets since 2011 when he was a No. 1 draft pick out of Connecticut, said in an emotional group interview Friday that he would be devastated if the Hornets ship him away.

Team owner Michael Jordan ought to shut this idea down himself, for surely he understands both the symbolic and on-court value of Walker. When you trade away the face of your franchise – and he’s only 27 – then you deserve whatever vitriol comes your way.

You may have heard this old joke:

What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

If the Hornets trade away Walker, most people in this town will either be apathetic about the Hornets or simply ignore them.

Walker still gives a lot of people a reason to care.

Trade him away, and that’s gone.

Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler