Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker has less than two weeks to go until he officially enters unrestricted free agency.
At his basketball camp in Charlotte today, the Hornets star said he'd be open to taking less than the supermax this summer. He told reporters at the camp, which was held at Ardrey Kell High School in south Charlotte, that his willingness to do so was to help the Hornets build a better team around him going forward.
Because Walker was named to an All-NBA team this season, the Hornets can offer him a five-year "supermax" contract worth up to $221 million - significantly more than the five-year, $190 million deal had he not been named All-NBA.
Other NBA teams can only offer a four-year deal worth $140 million when free agency begins June 30.
"Yeah, why not? Yeah I would be. I would take less, yeah," Walker said when asked if he'd take less than the supermax to help the Hornets build around him.
Kemba's exact words when he was asked if he'd be willing to take less than the supermax to help the #Hornets build a team around him: "Yeah, why not? Yeah I would be. I would take less, yeah." pic.twitter.com/W9uv8Vhk0Z— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 13, 2019
Kemba says he would take less than the supermax to stay in Charlotte. He reiterated that he’d love to stay here. pic.twitter.com/tsqK6cbOuI— WFNZ-AM/FM (@wfnz) June 13, 2019
Speaking at his youth basketball camp, Kemba Walker said he would take less than the supermax from the #Hornets to help build a team around him.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 13, 2019
The 29-year-old Walker said he's eager to hear what other teams have to offer.
"That all factors in (to my decision) when I sit down with the teams and hear what guys have to say," Walker said. "I think that will all come into play. I'm not really sure right now. Like I said Charlotte is my first priority and I have to see what (the Hornets) have to offer, as well as other teams."
There has been plenty of speculation about where Walker might end up, including with the New York Knicks because he grew up in the Bronx.
The main points from Kemba's media chat:— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 13, 2019
* #Hornets remain his top priority
* This is where he wants to be
* He'd take less than the supermax to help build around him
* He plans on meeting with other teams
* Will lean on agent Jeff Schwartz throughout process
But Walker has repeatedly said he loves playing and living in Charlotte.
"I have been here for eight years, and it's the team that drafted me," Walker said. "So yeah it is my first priority. I don't know if I will sign back with them, but they are my first priority."
Walker said he doesn't have a timetable for signing a contract but added he wouldn't mind getting it done as soon as possible.
Asked if he was confident he'd re-sign with Charlotte, Walker shrugged his shoulders and said, "I have no clue.
"I don't know," Walker added. "This is where I want to be and if it doesn't work out, it just doesn't. I'm prepared."
Asked Kemba if he still wants to be in Charlotte. "I don't know how many times I can say that. I'm not going to lie. I don't know how many times I can say it. But if it doesn't work out I'm definitely prepared to play somewhere else. But yes, I would love to be in Charlotte."— Rod Boone (@rodboone) June 13, 2019
Walker qualified for the supermax extension from the Hornets after making the third-team All-NBA this season, which could pay him more than $220 million over five years. He averaged a career-high 25.6 points and 5.9 assists for the Hornets this season while earning his third straight All-Star selection.
Over the last four seasons, he has averaged more than 20 points per game and is averaging 19.8 points per game for his career since joining the league in 2011 out of UConn, where he won a national championship with the Huskies.
Walker hasn't experienced that same team success at the NBA level.
The Hornets have made the playoffs only twice during Walker's career and have never made it out of the first round - a major disappointment for the highly competitive Walker. So the prospect of playing for a team that is closing to competing for a NBA championship could lure Walker away from Charlotte.
Walker said right now he is just trying to enjoy the experience, regardless of how stressful it might be.
"It's my first time being a free agent and having the opportunity to be in the driver's seat and have the opportunity to make a decision and play for different teams, and that is exciting in itself," Walker said. "And when teams have interest in you I think that is pretty cool."
Veteran forward Marvin Williams reportedly exercised his option for next season, in which he will earn $15 million. Swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a $13 million player option for next season, but he has not made his decision yet (and has until June 22 to do so). The Hornets are also already on the books for Nicolas Batum ($25.56 million), Bismack Biyombo ($17 million) and Cody Zeller ($14.47 million) next season -- although Biyombo and Williams are both in the final years of their respective deals.
The Hornets don't have the money to sign a difference-maker in free agency, which will likely leave GM Mitch Kupchak to acquire talent through a trades. Walker had said in the past he wants to continue playing for the Hornets and “create something special here” because he loves living in Charlotte. But the 6-foot-1 point guard appeared to slightly back off those statements as the 2018-19 season ended, saying repeatedly “I want to win.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.