Kemba Walker is eligible to re-sign with the Hornets on a five-year super-max contract that projects to be worth $221 million.
Instead, he sounds increasingly likely to join the Celtics.
Stephen A. Smith on ESPNews:
My sources tell me that Kemba Walker has informed the Charlotte Hornets and Michael Jordan he does not want to be there. He was offered a five-year deal. It wasn’t the super-max deal he was qualified for. It was somewhere in the ballpark of 160-plus million.
Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:
Kemba Walker is poised to commit to the Boston Celtics on Sunday night when free agency opens. He has essentially left Charlotte in his rearview mirror. They were too far apart on a contract.
This still feels like Walker trying to pressure the Hornets into offering more money. The rhetoric sounds just a little too strong.
Walker’s max with the Celtics projects to be about $141 million over four years. So, he’d be leaving about $19 million on the table. However, that’s a shorter deal, so he’d have a chance to recoup some of that money in four years.
Will Charlotte buckle and offer Walker more? I’d be shocked if he gets the full super-max, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he extracts enough money to stay. There’s plenty of room for compromise in the $61 million difference between the super-max and the offer.
But the Hornets are correct to tread lightly. Though it’d be difficult to lose the greatest player in franchise history and someone who has embraced the Charlotte community, this is not some great era the Hornets would be ending. They’ve only sometimes made the playoffs and never won a series with Walker in his prime. They have extremely limited avenues to upgrade around him, especially because Jordan refuses to pay the luxury tax. It will get even harder as Walker – a 29-year-old small guard – ages.
The risk is lower for Boston, which would have to pay him less and already has a solid supporting cast assembled. Plug Walker in for Kyrie Irving, and the Celtics should keep humming – maybe with lower championship odds, but with improved chemistry that should help over the long regular season.