Kemba Walker spoke a lot about loyalty this weekend, stressing that he wants to repay the Charlotte Hornets who have stuck by him since his rookie season. It further cements Walker’s commitment to this season and beyond, and it also points out how much the franchise has let him down in eight seasons.
Of course, the Hornets have tried to surround Walker with a winning team, but repeated missteps and some bad luck have prevented the team from putting out a consistent winning product.
All the steps forward and back are leading to what will likely be a turning point for the franchise one way or another. I believe the franchise wants to make it work with Walker long-term. I also believe that another sub-par season from the team may force the front office’s hand on trading or letting Walker walk next summer.
But again, the team is trying to improve, even when their options are limited. While they were mostly quiet in free agency, the Hornets addressed the need for a backup point guard in signing veteran Tony Parker. It’ll be the first time Parker will play for a team other than the San Antonio Spurs, which Walker believes is a sign that Parker is looking for a new challenge. Speaking with SB Nation’s Kristen Winfield, Walker said he was shocked to hear Parker was leaving San Antonio for Charlotte.
“That was a huge step for him I think,” said Walker. “He’s been there for the last 16, 17 years I think. To leave [San Antonio], it was really surprising. I think he just wanted something new, especially at the end of his career. We really wanted him, give him a chance to play some minutes. It’s gonna be fun.”
Parker’s arrival could certainly help. He’s very familiar with fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum from their time with the national team, and Parker’s experience in clutch situations could ease a bit of the burden for Walker, who hasn’t had a lot of help in late game situations for most of his career.
Walker stated he met Parker briefly when he joined the team last month, and that the two have been communicating since.
“We’ve been texting back and forth and things like that. So far, he’s a good dude. I’m looking forward to being around him some more and learning from him.”
If there’s one thing Walker thinks he can learn from Parker, it’s the in-between game. More specifically, Walker wants to pick his brain on how to hit the floater more consistently.
“I think he’s one of the best in our league at [the in-between game]. Guys shoot floaters and shots in that in-between game, but not at a consistent rate. [Parker is] one of the very few. So I think that’s something I’m gonna be picking his brain about.”
Walker is already a dangerous scorer, so adding another type of shot, and one that could help him shoot over bigger defenders at that, would be beneficial.
Parker isn’t going to solve all of the team’s problems. A 36-year-old point guard coming off a major injury roughly a year and a half ago can only do so much. But judging from Walker’s comments, he expects Parker to help, and I agree. Parker’s experience could offer stability and another veteran voice in the locker room. He should fit well in James Borrego’s system as well, given their history.
How much will all of this factor in come October? We can only wait and see. But hopefully Parker’s addition along with the rookies and the new staff can help pay back Kemba for all he’s done thus far.