|NBA peers: Kemba Walker makes Charlotte franchise relevant|
|All-Star guard puts Hornets on the map|
|Published Monday, February 18, 2019 12:31 am|
|Kemba Walker makes the Charlotte Hornets relevant as an NBA franchise, according league stars LeBron James and Steph Curry.|
Kemba Walker makes the Charlotte Hornets relevant.
The three-time NBA All-Star point guard made his first start in the showcase at Spectrum Center Sunday for Team Giannas, joining Glen Rice as the only Hornets in franchise history to earn three berths. Team LeBron won the game 178-164, with Walker scoring four points and finishing with eight assists.
“I try to play the game the right way,” Walker said. “I try to put the city on the map. I try to put this organization on the map. I know we don’t get noticed as much, or we don’t get televised as much, but hopefully one day we can.”
Said Los Angeles Lakers forward and All-Star game all-time leading scorer LeBron James, who scored 19 points and tallied eight boards: “First of all, it’s incredible to have your first All-Star start in your own building. It doesn’t happen like that a lot, and for that to be today for Kemba has been great. He’s the all-time leader in points [here] for a reason, but he’s made this franchise relevant because of his maturation process and the way he has continued to get better and better each and every year. It’s been great to see what he’s been able to do year after year, after year, and continue to get better and better with his game, and also his leadership.”
If the All-Star game had taken place in 2017, Dell Curry would have been introduced as the Hornets all-time leading scorer. The festivities took a two-year detour due to North Carolina legislation demanding that individuals use public bathrooms of the sex listed on his or her birth certificate, known as House Bill 2. It was repealed by HB 142 and the game eventually found its way here.
“My brother [Seth, who plays with Portland] was making a joke,” said Golden State guard Steph Curry. “He said if the All-Star game was here two years ago, they could’ve announced [Dell] still as the all-time leading scorer in Hornets history, but since then, Kemba’s broken that,” said Steph Curry, who scored 17 points and tallied nine rebounds. “Definitely, I don't give anybody flack for playing 16 years, 10 here in Charlotte, the last original Hornet, and now still in the organization, obviously, as a color commentator for the team, and then pretty much an ambassador throughout the city and throughout the state. I've been trying to get him to move out to the Bay, and it speaks to how much of this is home. It's been a really hard selling point. This is where home is for him.”
All-Star ended as quickly as it begun, with the Hornets (27-30, seventh in the Eastern Conference) hitting the second half of the season at home on Feb. 22 against Washington.
“We had so many huge names here over the weekend, but as an individual, I felt like the city supported me a lot,” Walker said. “I really appreciated that throughout this weekend. As far as getting back to the season, that’s what we do. We play basketball. For us, if we really want to make a push, we’ve just gotta be locked in. I’ll try my best to get some rest, recover a little bit from this weekend.”
Walker becomes a free agent in July when the league’s year ends. He insists he does not want to play for anyone else, but the question remains: will the Hornets pony up?
“He’s a great competitor,” said Team Giannis coach Mike Budenholzer, who coaches the Milwaukee Bucks. “He’s got a great spirit, and being around him all weekend, you get to see and feel that spirit. He’s just a guy you want to be around, and have on your team.”
Said Steph Curry: “Kemba, he's breaking all these records, and it's unbelievable to see. One, how he's established himself as a premier NBA player, but to do it here in Charlotte and get the city behind him and give them something to root for, I think it's pretty special and something I respect so much from his standpoint. Hopefully, he stays here for a long time.”
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