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Kemba Walker: 'I could care less' about trade rumors

Kemba Walker is still with the Charlotte Hornets and is excited to still be there, too.

In an interview with the team’s web site about a variety of topics, Walker addressed his name being mentioned in trade talks in January last season. The 28-year-old Walker has been the subject of possible NBA trade talks as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract with the Hornets.

That speculation has amped up recently because it is a practical impossibility for Charlotte to sign Walker to an extension before he becomes a free agent in July of 2019 since the Hornets are so tight under the salary cap.

I’m not even thinking about it. I see it all the time. I hear about it all the time. I hear about the rumors, but I could care less. I’m a Hornet and that’s really all that matters.”

Kemba Walker, on trade talk

However, Walker says he was happy to hear new GM Mitch Kupchak recently say Walker is a focal point of the franchise going forward.

“It means a lot. It means a lot,” Walker said. “I want to feel wanted, of course. It feels good. I’m excited he did it. He’s a good man and I’m getting to know him every single day. I’m a Hornet. I’m going into my eighth year and I’m excited like it’s my rookie year. I’m here right now and that’s all I can really think of.

“I’ve got to control what I can control … that’s really about it. I’m not even thinking about it. I see it all the time. I hear about it all the time. I hear about the rumors, but I could care less. I’m a Hornet and that’s really all that matters.”

Kupchak said last Friday that Walker is “revered” in the Charlotte community, and that he and owner Michael Jordan look at the two-time All-Star as a fixture for the team going forward.

Walker also addressed the team’s offseason overhaul, which included parting ways with coach Steve Clifford and his staff and firing GM Rich Cho. The Hornets hired Kupchak as their new GM and, shortly thereafter, named San Antonio Spurs assistant coach James Borrego as their new coach.

“I was here for a while with Cliff and the rest of his staff, especially guys like [former assistant] coach [Stephen] Silas. I was pretty upset when those guys got let go, but that’s the nature of the business,” Walker said. “You kind of have to understand the things that go on with our league and what happens in organizations. People have to make decisions and people have to make tough decisions as well.

“Cliff’s a great coach and he’s helped change this organization tremendously. I know to let him go was a tough choice for Mitch. It was tough for me to see him and the rest of the staff go as well. But, you get over it and you’ve got to look ahead to the future.”

Clifford was hired by the Orlando Magic on May 30 as their new coach. He went 196-214 in five seasons there and led the Hornets to playoffs in two of his first four seasons after the team qualified for the postseason just once in the previous 10 seasons.

The Hornets reportedly traded center Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in one of the first moves of the offseason. He is expected to be waived by Brooklyn once the league’s free-agent moratorium ends on July 6.

Aside from that move, the Hornets traded for rookie Miles Bridges on Draft night and selected Devonte Graham from Kansas in the second round, too. As the opening of free agency nears, the Hornets will enter it with mostly the same roster it fielded last season.

Walker, however, has been happy with the roster at hand and is looking forward to 2018-19 in Charlotte.

“Things are different around here. There’s some great, positive energy,” Walker said. “I feel good, I’m healthy … it’s my first time having a healthy summer in the last three years. So, I’m not rehabbing every day … I’m getting better and it’s exciting.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.