The Charlotte Hornets are not going to be able to replace Kemba Walker. He has averaged 18.8 points and 5.2 assists a game for them this season, and when he is on the court their offense jumps 3.3 points per 100 possessions. Coach Steve Clifford recently called Walker the Bobcats best player.
But Charlotte is going to have to try to replace him.
As we said could be coming, Walker is going to need knee surgery, something first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
The team has since confirmed the news.
This is a setback for Walker, who at age 24 was having the best, most efficient season of his career.
The good news for the Hornets — currently sitting as the eight seed in the East after winning 10 of 12 games — is they could have Walker back for the playoffs, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
That would have him back likely in the middle of March, a month before the playoffs start.
The problem is, even at the bottom of the lowly East playoff race, the Hornets can’t afford a big step back while Walker is out and still make the playoffs. Right now Brian Roberts is the next point guard on the depth chart, although what this really means is the ball in Lance Stephenson’s hands more. So the Hornets are looking at trades to bridge the gap until Walker is back.
The Nets and Hornets are also talking about a potential deal involving Stephenson for Joe Johnson and other players, which could provide some scoring and ball handling depth while Walker is out. However, the Hornets could pull back in their talks due to this injury.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker has missed a few games with a sore knee, and the issue could require surgery.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
That’s a big injury, but Charlotte can overcome it if all everyone else remains healthy.
Or maybe if anyone stays healthy?
After a slow start, the Hornets have finally climbed back into playoff position. They’re still just 17-26, but in the Eastern Conference, they’re rolling.
Or at least were.
This could put the brakes on a trade with the Nets, because despite all his problems, Lance Stephenson is a quality playmaker. He won’t replace Walker, who was getting All-Star consideration, but he can ease the burden on Brian Roberts.
Marvin Williams had already lost his starting job to Cody Zeller. Maybe rookie Noah Vonleh, who was behind due to his own injury, will join the rotation.
Bismack Biyombo played well while Al Jefferson was injured and remained in the starting lineup, albeit with far fewer minutes, once Jefferson returned. Jefferson will surely start again now, and Charlotte will need him to carry a bigger load.
Steve Clifford is a good coach, and there’s still talent left for him to work with. The Hornets have a chance to remain in the playoff race. Brooklyn is just a half game back, but after that, it’s the Pistons – who have their own injury issues with Brandon Jennings – and assortment of teams probably more interested in the draft than the postseason at this point. (Plus the Pacers, who I doubt have the juice to reach the playoffs, as hard as they try.)
The Hornets had been playing much better lately, and won five straight before dropping a close one on Wednesday against the Spurs.
The play of Kemba Walker has been the reason why.
Walker took home Western Conference Player of the Week honors, with an average of 30.3 points per game during that stretch. But he’ll be unavailable on Saturday when the Hornets face the Pacers.
From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
No Al Jefferson and no Kemba Walker. No good for the Charlotte Hornets.
For the first time since center Jefferson signed with the then-Bobcats two summers ago, this franchise will play with neither Jefferson nor Walker available Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers.
Jefferson has missed eight games with a groin strain; he hopes to return Wednesday against the Miami Heat. Walker will miss his first game this season due to soreness in his left knee.
Walker sat out practice Friday and did not participate in shootaround Saturday morning. In his absence Brian Roberts will get his first start this season.
The Hornets say that Brian Roberts will get the start at point guard, and both Gary Neal and Lance Stephenson will get some time there, as well.
Stephenson has been the subject of trade rumors, with his name most recently coming up in reports of discussions involving the Brooklyn Nets. Those talks are reportedly dead for now, perhaps because it’s unclear just how much he’ll be able to contribute this season.
After an underwhelming start, Stephenson missed 14 straight games due to a groin injury. He returned for the loss to the Spurs, but in what was his first game since Dec. 17, he managed just eight points and two assists in 18 minutes off the bench.