NEW YORK — Kemba Walker is from The Bronx and has been linked to the New York Knicks as their potential star point guard in next year’s free agency. But there are two teams in New York. What does Walker think about Brooklyn?
“The Nets? Uhh, it’s always kind of weird because the Knicks are here, but now you’ve got Brooklyn. But I feel like people don’t know who to root for sometimes,” he told reporters during his stop at the National Basketball Player’s Association youth summer basketball camp at Basketball City on Thursday. “I love Brooklyn. I love the city of Brooklyn. There are definitely die-hard fans.
“That’s one thing about people from Brooklyn, they’re very loyal, they’re die-hard, they believe in their team. I love Brooklyn. I love going there. I love playing there. It always gives me a chance to come back home, too, so that’s why I love it as well. I like the organization, too. It’s cool.”
Walker becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career next summer. While he has publicly expressed his loyalty to Charlotte, they put the All-Star guard on the trading block last season. It is unclear if the Hornets plan to keep him beyond his current four-year, $48 million contract.
Charlotte could offer Walker a five-year max contract worth $188 million if they’re interested in keeping him for the future. Any other team can offer him a maximum of four years at $139 million, paying $32.7 million in Year 1. The Nets will have room for one max contract next summer and could only create room for a second by either renouncing D’Angelo Russell and his $21.1 million cap hold — not likely — or trading Allen Crabbe without taking much back in salary — also not likely — while renouncing players like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Treveon Graham, Theo Pinson and potentially declining a team option on Caris LeVert.
Two max players isn’t likely unless the whales are headed to Brooklyn next summer. Other notable free agents in next year’s class include Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeAndre Jordan and Al Horford. If the Nets can’t get their hands one of Irving, Butler or Leonard, Thompson is the single best fit for a Brooklyn team that likes to run, defend and shoot threes.
Walker also provided insight into new Nets point guard Shabazz Napier, who played at UConn, the same team Cardiac Kemba led to an NCAA Championship in 2011.
“I do [like the Nets as a landing spot for Napier]. I saw him in Portland. It was just tough for him to play consistent minutes,” Walker said. “Thought he should have been playing more. He had a great year. I think he’ll have even more of an opportunity now playing in Brooklyn. I’m excited for him, man.
“I think it’ll be fun for him. It’ll give me a chance to see him more now that we’ll be playing four times. Yeah man, we talk a lot during the season. It’s so hard for us to see each other especially with him out on the West Coast. Now I get a chance to see him four times a year.”