Kemba Walker said he would take less than a five-year, $221.3 million supermax contract to stay with the Charlotte Hornets, but it appears as though he was discussing something the Hornets never planned to offer.
"I don't think they were ever going to offer him the supermax," ESPN's Zach Lowe said Tuesday.
"It's a good play: 'I'm going to take less of something that they were never going to offer me anyway,' so when you do a deal, you look benevolent," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski responded. "It was a smart play by Kemba."
Wojnarowski went on to say that he expected the Hornets to present Walker with an offer better than any other team's.
The issue is how high Charlotte is willing to go. A big-money offer would likely take the Hornets into the luxury tax, at which point they may start having to shed salaries.
Walker is expected to command attention from a number of teams in free agency, including the Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. He's coming off his third straight All-Star season and earned third team All-NBA honors after averaging a career-high 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
The All-NBA selection made Walker eligible for the supermax contract, which would pay him 35 percent of the salary cap.
Despite Walker's individual success, he hasn't been able to help the Hornets translate it into regular playoff appearances. Charlotte has made the postseason only twice during Walker's career and lost in the first round both times.
Walker's inability to elevate shaky supporting casts raises the question of whether he's better suited for a second or third banana role on a contending team.