Kemba Walker was smiling, greeting everyone he knew, and being the popular team-captain everyone knows and loves.
The all-star point guard is now in his his seventh season in the NBA with the team that drafted him, and he couldn’t be more excited for the season and the Hornets’ new additions in Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, and Malik Monk.
“Of course, Dwight is such a huge name, a guy who’s been through a lot in the league, he’s just a guy who knows what it takes. So when I first got the news we got him, I was pretty ecstatic.”
So far, Howard is making a difference in the paint, adding a strong rebounding and scoring presence.
The Hornets also acquired Carter-Williams in free agency. The point guard, whose passing abilities will compliment Walker’s explosive offensive play and will help lead the second unit, is now on his fourth team in his five-year career.
“MCW, another great pickup for us,” Walker said. “I thought the last couple years hadn’t been great for him, but I think him being here with us in this environment that we have will change a lot of things for him.”
Walker improved tremendously in shooting and leadership last year, leading to his first all-star appearance in New Orleans. The growth in his leadership led him to closer relationships with players such as Frank Kaminsky.
Kaminsky often calls Walker “Dad” in the locker room, and posted a picture on Instagram of him, Walker and his actual dad with the caption “Happy Father’s Day!”
“Kemba’s great, a lot of the guys on this team are great,” Kaminsky said. “They all made my transition from college to the NBA super easy, Kemba was always there picking me up whenever I was down on myself. Hanging out with us off the court, playing cards and whatnot.”
With the core of Howard, Nicolas Batum, and Walker, the Hornets now have shooting, solid defense, and consistent speed throughout the starting lineup.
Currently, the Hornets are 8–11, but injuries to Batum and backup point guard Julyan Stone’s have held the Hornets back. The team is 3–3 since Batum returned earlier this month from his elbow injury.
If the Hornets want to stay strong this season, they’ll have to improve their aggressiveness, shooting (which has gotten a boost from rookie Malik Monk) and defense.
The chemistry between Hornets coach Steve Clifford and Dwight Howard is undeniable. They’ve worked together in Orlando and Los Angeles, with Dwight’s poise and maturity continuing to improve.
Kaminsky explained that “Kemba’s always smiling, always laughing, always in the middle of all the jokes, so he’s just a guy that you want to have on your team and you just love having as a leader.”
It’s that attitude and leadership that will carry the Hornets to the playoffs this year.
Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images