Hornets star guard Kemba Walker says he has talked to general manager Mitch Kupchak about what Charlotte has in store for roster upgrades but that he wasn’t getting involved beyond that, signaling he will take a wait-and-see approach to his free agency this summer.
“They know. They know what they got to do,” Walker said in an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump that aired Tuesday. “That’s not my job. I’ll leave it up to those guys.
“We have Mitch now, who’s a great guy who’s done a great job at building teams over his GM career,” Walker added, referring to former longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, whom the Hornets hired in April. “And I have a lot of trust in him. So, you know, we talk all the time. Who knows.”
Walker stands to be among the most in-demand players to hit the NBA’s free-agent market in July. But he will also be eligible to sign a “supermax” contract with the Hornets for five-years and $221 million if he makes any All-NBA team, wins the MVP or is named Defensive Player of the Year this season.
“I want to enjoy that process I guess, and just wait for it over the summer,” Walker said.
Barring a drastic turns of events, the 28-year-old will enter free agency in an optimal spot. This season, he is averaging career bests in four key measurements: points, at 25.4; fourth-quarter points, at 8.6 (which also leads the NBA); 3-point field goals, at 3.2; and player efficiency rating, at 22.2.
Walker still wasn’t overly confident about sitting down to the negotiating table with Kupchak and Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
“I don’t know what I’m going to say to the GOAT,” said a laughing Walker, who in his eighth season with the Hornets is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. “We’re going to see.”
In July, Kupchak said he and Jordan viewed Walker, taken ninth overall by the Hornets in the 2011 draft, as “the focal point of this franchise going forward” and that Kupchak wanted the former UConn star to end his career in Charlotte. Walker had been the potential subject of trade talks and speculation had amped up with the prospect of him signing an extension before he hit free agency a practical impossibility since the Hornets are so tight under the salary cap.
“At first it was pretty tough,” Walker said in his appearance on The Jump. “Just because I’ve never been involved in trade talks. So to hear it, I think I first heard about it through social media. So from that point on I was pretty upset. But you can only control what you can control. And if they wanted to get rid of me I guess they would have. And they didn’t. And you know, I just tried my best to finish that season out. And then during the summer I just locked in. “
Walker said he coveted having Jordan around and that the Hall of Famer loved spending time with the Hornets and offering his advice, the highlight of which for Walker was “just to be myself.”
“I’ve needed that a few times over the course of my career,” Walker said. “So yeah, especially early on in my career, when I first came in trying not to step on anybody’s toes, things like that. (Jordan) brought me to the side. He was like ‘We drafted you for a reason. Just come in and be yourself.'”
Walker ranked third among Eastern Conference guards in the first round of All-Star voting results released last week — for a game to be hosted by Charlotte. He said it “would mean the world” to make his third All-Star team.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “I’m excited. I’m going to try to get back to that game.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.