Kemba Walker says he would like to return to the Charlotte Hornets. As the 29-year-old point guard enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, he's in full control of where his next destination lies while in the thick of his prime. The 6-foot-1 point guard was recently named to the All-NBA squad for the first time in his eight-year career during the 2018-19 season, coming off of a campaign in which he averaged a career-best 25.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while starting 82 games for just the second time.
Despite Walker's individual success in Charlotte, though, he hasn't had any team success with the Hornets. Walker has made it to the playoffs just two times in his career, with both of those postseason appearances resulting in first-round exits. To top things off, the Hornets have missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons despite Walker clinching All-Star appearances each year.
With a free agency decision looming, Walker is stressing a couple things: He would consider taking less than the supermax to re-sign with the Hornets and the Hornets are his first priority.
Via Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
"How can they not be?' Walker said about calling the Hornets his first priority. "I don't understand how they can not be my first priority. I've been here eight years. They were the team that drafted me."
"I don't know if I'll sign back with them. I'm not sure. But they are my first priority."
Walker, after being named to the All-NBA third team this season, is eligible for a five-year, $221 million deal with Charlotte. But he mentioned it wouldn't necessarily take that much to keep him with the Hornets.
Walker was asked if he'd consider taking less than the full $221 million guarantee to help the Hornets' put talent around him.
After a pause, he said, "Yeah, why not. I would be. I would take less, for sure."
There are several teams that are viewed as in the market for Walker, including the likes of the Hornets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Walker is one of the top free agents in this class, with our Colin Ward-Henninger ranking him as the fourth-best potential free agent in 2019.
While Walker's return to Charlotte is far from certain, Hornets fans have to at least feel optimistic considering their franchise player is willing to take a hometown discount to return to the only NBA franchise he's ever known.