Walker is Hornets’ way to tempt other teams

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The recent news of Michael Jordan’s willingness to trade Kemba Walker grabbed headlines, but the apparent asking price may ultimately prevent such a deal from happening.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently reported Jordan would be open to moving the fiery point guard from the University of Connecticut, but “only if the return included a major All-Star, such as the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard.”

Somewhere Gregg Popovich had a hearty laugh.

That’s like saying I’d definitely be open to giving away my car to a complete stranger, but only if I was given a beach house and a thousand shares of Amazon stock in return. The deal would have needed to include additional assets from the Charlotte side, likely a draft pick or two, to balance things out.

As it turns out, this Walker-Leonard swap was potentially more than just a fun hypothetical drawn up on the ESPN Trade Machine, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported.

“The Charlotte Hornets are rumored to have tried to engage on a Leonard deal built around Kemba Walker, which is where many believe the Walker rumors started.” Kyler adds “there is a growing sense that if the Hornets could find a way to pry Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard out of San Antonio, they pull the trigger.”

This report isn’t the only rumbling suggesting Walker may not be on the move after all. As Fansided pointed out, “The Detroit Pistons offered Tobias Harris and a first round pick for Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.”

It appears that proposal was declined by the Hornets, as Harris was ultimately shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers in the blockbuster that delivered Blake Griffin to Detroit.

The rumors don't stop there, either. Clifton Brown of the Indy Star examined some potential trade scenarios that would send Walker to the Indiana Pacers.

"One suggested deal has the Pacers sending guard Darren Collison, forward Bojan Bogdanovic, center Al Jefferson, and the Pacers’ 2018 first-round pick to Charlotte, in exchange for Walker and center Dwight Howard," writes Brown.

I personally don't see Charlotte parting with their two most prominent players in a deal that returns some spare parts and a late first-rounder. Regardless, the noise surrounding Kemba Walker's fate is only increasing in volume.

As the wheels turn and the Feb. 8 trade deadline nears, you really have to question Jordan’s impetus to move on from his star point guard. It’s easy to say you’d potentially swap Walker for an MVP candidate, but is Jordan really motivated to shake things up?

This Hornets team has been stuck in mud for years, in that gray area between drafting premier lottery picks and making serious playoff runs. It’s the sweet spot that every general manager tries to avoid, and the Hornets have seemingly built a nest in it.

Despite the addition ofHoward, whom many consider an All-Star snub, Charlotte remains several games out of the final playoff spot in the East. The Hornets escape route from this dreaded middle ground doesn’t appear to be very smooth, either.

Thanks to some highly questionable contracts, the Hornets currently have the eighth-most money tied up in salaries for next season (a year in which they’ll be shelling out a combined sum of $38 million to Nic Batum and Marvin Williams). All seven teams that rank higher are basically shoe-ins for the playoffs this year. Translation: Charlotte’s only way out may actually be via prudent, but substantial trades.

Are the Hornets willing to pull the trigger on a franchise-altering move?

Several sources familiar with the Hornets brass suggestJordan has his hands in most, if not all, of the basketball decisions. Is Jordan really willing to break apart this Hornets core and rebuild from the ground up, or will his competitive nature override that logic while he attempts to rejigger the roster on the fly?

General manager Rich Cho has taken a lot of heat after some shaky draft selections and head-scratching free-agent contracts, but if Walker, or another big name, is indeed moved before the deadline it will surely be M.J. who makes the call.


Christopher Kreider | @krydr1