October 30, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Kemba Walker has seen NBA basketball in Charlotte at its worst. He's willing to stick around to see it at its best.

The diminutive point guard said that's why he agreed to a contract extension Thursday which allows him to remain with the Hornets instead of testing the free agent market.

''Now that we're a good team, I want to keep us good,'' Walker said Thursday at a press conference at the team's downtown arena. ''I want to be in the middle of that.''

Walker signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension with the Hornets, a person familiar with the deal said Tuesday night. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal had not been announced publicly.

The Hornets drafted the 6-foot-1 Walker with the ninth pick in 2011. He has started 180 games in three seasons and averages 16 points, 5.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

After agreeing to the contract late Tuesday night, Walker immediately began paying dividends for the Hornets. He hit two huge shots, including the game-winner with 5 seconds left in overtime to propel the Hornets to a 108-106 win over the Bucks in the season opener on Wednesday night.

''It's been unbelievable,'' Walker said of the past few days.

It wasn't always so great.

Walker endured a 7-59 season as a rookie, the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history after leading Connecticut to the national championship as a senior.

But things have turned around in Charlotte and he and center Al Jefferson - one of the players Walker helped recruit to the team - are two of the big reasons why.

Charlotte won 43 games last season and reached the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. They were swept by the Miami Heat, but are expected to better this season with the addition of another top free agent in Lance Stephenson.

''From day one we weren't so good and you see us now,'' Walker said. ''Everyone is talking about us and we come into the season with high expectations. A few years ago it wasn't like that. I'm happy to say I've been a part of this whole rebuilding process.''

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