1. The buzzing around Walker back in New York
Kemba Walker will be back in New York Wednesday night and that will lead to lots of buzz about his possible return to the city on a full-time basis.
Walker is a native of the Bronx who played at now-closed Rice High School in Manhattan before heading off to the University of Connecticut to lead the Huskies to a national championship in 2011.
Walker is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and could be eligible for a supermax contract if he were to make an All-NBA team this season.
The Hornets are the only team that could offer the deal, five years and $221 million, under the designated veteran extension rule added to the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement in 2017.
Walker said before training camp (per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer) he expects to remain in Charlotte, but there’s a lot of time for minds to change between September and July.
"“I feel like as long as I play like I’m capable of playing and lead like I’m capable of leading, I think I’ll be here. I’m confident I’ll be here and they’ll do the right thing.”"
Walker is often linked to the New York Knicks when discussions of his free agency come up, particularly when the eighth-year veteran and two-time All-Star is back in the city.
The Knicks appear to be bracing for disappointment on the free agency front, with team president Steve Mills de-emphasizing a free agent splash in July as a priority, per WFAN.
If Walker remains in Charlotte, the Hornets can use his Bird rights to exceed the salary cap to keep him, but on a supermax deal it would almost certainly put the team over the tax line for the first time ever in 2020-21.
Walker, meanwhile, has been in a slump in December, averaging just 19.8 points per game while shooting 37.4 percent overall and 29.5 percent from 3-point range. Perhaps his back is having trouble holding up to the strain of carrying a disjointed, capped-out roster.
His production has been going down on a fairly steep incline from month-to-month. Walker averaged 30.1 points on 46.3 and 4.14 percent shooting in October before dipping to 25.4 points per game on 43.6 and 34.2 percent in November.