NBA free agency rumors: Hornets star Kemba Walker says 'Charlotte's definitely my first priority'
Walker was recently named to the All-NBA Third Team, which qualifies him for a huge payday
Among all of the stars who will be free agents this summer, one of the most interesting cases is Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker. The 29-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and eligible for a huge payday after qualifying for the supermax by virtue of being named to the All-NBA Third Team this season.
There's intrigue with any major free agent and where they'll go, but the question in Walker's case is two-fold. Will the Hornets want to pay Walker $221.3 million over five years? And if they do, will that extra money be too much for Walker to turn down in favor of going to a more competitive team?
For Walker, it seems the answer is obvious. During a recent interview, he made it clear that his "first priority" is staying with the Hornets, and it's not all about the money. Via The Athletic:
"Oh no question, Charlotte's definitely my first priority," Walker said. "That's where I've been for eight years and that's all I know. Not many people get a chance to play for one NBA team throughout their career. When I go on my Instagram, I see, 'Kemba leave! Kemba get out of Charlotte!' People don't understand, when they say you need to go 'here' and win, that winning is not guaranteed anywhere.
"... Charlotte is my home, man. I've been there for eight years and it's been the most amazing eight years of my life. My family, they love it. The fans love me. The organization has been great and gave me my opportunity."
As much as Walker talks about Charlotte being home, and the loyalty he has to the franchise, there's no question the money is a strong factor here. As a supermax qualifier, the Hornets can pay Walker over $220 million, while the most another team could offer is just over $140 million -- a difference of about $80 million. Plus, he can get a fifth year from the Hornets, which Walker said is "important for sure."
Whether or not the Hornets want to pay that much, however, will be interesting to see. Walker is already one of the best players in Hornets history, and is a fan favorite who wants to stay in town. At the same time, that's an immense amount of money to pay a player who is almost 30 years old and isn't good enough to push a team into contention by himself. And with the Hornets' roster situation, signing Walker to that deal would seem to lock them into a middling squad for at least the next few seasons.
At this point it seems Walker wants to return to Charlotte, but nothing is a guarantee in NBA free agency. Walker's situation will be one to watch over the next month.
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