Kemba Walker on Free Agency: 'Nothing's Changed'; Hornets 'Where I Want to Be'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2019

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) reacts after a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Chuck Burton/Associated Press

As he gets set to hit free agency, All-Star guard Kemba Walker pledged his allegiance to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

As seen in the following video courtesy of WCNC's Kelsey Riggs, Walker expressed his desire to remain in Charlotte:

"Nothing's changed," Walker said. "This is where I want to be."

The 28-year-old Walker has spent his entire eight-year NBA career in Charlotte since the then-Charlotte Bobcats selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of UConn.

Walker is coming off the most productive season of his career. He appeared in all 82 games and averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He also shot 43.4 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range.

Despite the three-time All-Star's elite level of play, the Hornets finished ninth in the Eastern Conference at 39-43 and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Without Walker, Charlotte likely would revert to being one of the NBA's worst teams in 2019-20.

Walker has often been asked about his free agency plans this season, and he has remained firm in his desire to stay with the Hornets. In an interview with NBA.com's Shaun Powell in February, Walker talked about how badly he wants to help the Hornets develop into a contender: "I want to build something here. I want to try and make us one of the top teams one day. I love this place. I want to help take this organization to places it has never been."

Walker also discussed how much it means to him to play under owner Michael Jordan: 

"Michael drafted me. When that happened, the first thing that went through my mind is this guy is giving me an opportunity. So I'm going to give it everything I got. That's what I do for MJ, ever since I've been here, each and every night. To try to play the game the right way. Play hard. And a lot has to do with him."

If Walker hits the open market, he figures to be among the hottest commodities in a stacked free-agent class. Other potential free agents include Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors and Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics.

Walker is arguably as good or better as a pure scorer than any of them other than Durant, which is high praise considering he has played in relative anonymity with the Hornets.

If Walker and the Hornets are unable to reach a deal that keeps him in Charlotte, he will be a target for multiple teams. That likely includes the Los Angeles Lakers, who desperately need another star to play alongside LeBron James.

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