Kemba Walker is in a contract year. Some envision the New York Knicks are in his future.
A Bronx native, Walker is loyal to the Hornets. “I’ve only been on one team,” Walker tells me.
The Walker, Knicks narrative began when he spoke to the Hartford Courant’s Dom Amore about the possibility of New York being his next team.
“I’ve been hearing it for years,” he said
“Every time I come home, ‘When are you going to come home and play for the Knicks?’ I know it’s a special place, I was a Knicks fan growing up, always rooted for the home team. But I just can’t see myself in a Knicks jersey, only because I’ve only been in one jersey.”
“At first, it bothers you. Who wouldn’t it bother? Who wants to hear his name in trade rumors? But I’m seven years in—it’s not the first time. It’s something I’ve gotten over. What can I do?”
The internet went buzzing with Walker’s statement!
Is the New York pipedream over?
“I don’t know,” Walker told me on the record for clarification.
“I’ve been on one team in seven years, going on eight years. So when it’s my time, I’ll make a decision. That’s all I said. I said: ‘I didn’t see myself in a Knicks jersey because I’ve only been in one jersey, you know what I mean?”
The two-time All-Star will be a hot commodity when he hits the open market next summer. With career averages of 18.9 points per game and 5.4 assist, Walker is not chopped liver.
In the meantime, he’s preparing for the 2018-19 NBA season.
With LeBron in the west, the NBA’s Eastern Conference is wide the heck open. While most are paying attention to the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards, why aren’t they talking about the Hornets?
“I mean, why should they,” said Walker.
“We haven’t done anything in the last couple years. I wouldn’t mention us either…but, you know, we’re not bothered by that, we’re not fazed by it. It doesn’t really matter. At this point, no games have been played and there’s no telling what could happen over the course of an NBA season.”
Walker has straight forward goals for himself and the Hornets this season: “I just want to make the playoffs,” he said.
Walker has been chipping away at that goal under the direction on new assistant coach, Jay Hernandez. Hernandez and Walker go way back.
A native New Yorker, like Walker, Hernandez has been Walker’s skills trainer since his rookie year. Hernandez played at Hofstra with NBA champion Speedy Claxton under then-head coach, Jay Wright, now a National Champion head coach at Villanova.
Walker says he and Hernandez stuck to the basics in their training sessions this summer. “A lot of floaters in-between games,” he said.
“That’s been a big emphasis: finishing at the rim in-between games, being more consistent at that.”
Playoffs here they come!
“That’s it,” said Walker.
“I want to get back to the playoffs consistently, so next year is the first step for consistent playoff runs.”