While the “Free [insert name]” hash tag has a rich history on social media forums, the latest fandom hostage negotiations have been on behalf of the 6th-year Charlotte Hornets guard, Kemba Walker. Fresh off a 41 point performance in a home loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the calls from empathetic Hornets fans and #15-courters alike have been amplified.
Walker nearly scored half of the team’s points exposing the fact that there is little help around him in the lineup. The Hornets’ season is derailing and will continue to dip farther below .500, likely missing the playoffs for a second straight year.
Walker recently moved into 2nd place on the Hornets’ all-time assists list, joining only LeBron James and Marc Gasol as the only active players to rank in their respective team’s top 2 for points and assists. This should make Walker a valuable asset for any team with paucity of scoring guards.
One theory being floated about has Walker, a Bronx native, going to the New York Knicks. Such speculation has Kemba and Marvin Williams (12-year pro) being traded for any two of the combined talents of Kyle O’Quinn, Joakim Noah, or Frank Ntilikina.
However, with the resurgence of PG Trey Burke on the New York Knicks affiliate G-League team, at a bargain salary of $1.6M annually, that would seem unlikely. Walker is currently owed $12M on a 2-year contract.
There is also the supposition that owner Michael Jordan would never do his old adversaries the Knicks any favors.
Walker is averaging 21.8 PPG and 5.8 APG as a point-guard in name only. A 6’1 guard (not point, not shooting) has limitations in that he is a natural scorer but lacks the distribution numbers that a starting NBA point guard demands.
The Hornets are presently 11-25 coming off an inspiring 3-1 road trip prior to the loss against Dallas, widely believed as the worst team in the league. Walker will continue to provide serviceable stats but in which city is yet to be determined- He will make a decent team better and a good team very good.
Since coming to the NBA in 2011 after leading his Connecticut team to a National Title, Walker has been the staple in a Hornets line-up that has endured upper-management’s infatuation with bad collegiate selections via the draft and free agent moves. Experiments with Jeremy Lin, Cody Zeller, and Frank Kaminsky have proved fruitless, save for three home wins versus the Miami Heat, sans LeBron in 2016.
Walker has put the Charlotte franchise on his back while the list of players that Charlotte has passed up over the years includes Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and Draymond Green. Surrounding Walker with just a few of these names that could have worn a Charlotte jersey would have this team being a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference.
If the Hornets decide to take a ‘Trust the Process’ approach, trading their greatest commodity now would be the wisest move before the Buzz City becomes Zzzzzz City.