Kemba Walker‘s 2016-17 season was by far his best NBA season yet, as the 27-year-old averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game. That, along with the Hornets’ hilarious ‘Walker, Charlotte Ranger‘ campaign, got The Bronx, NY, native to his first All-Star Game.
Despite Kemba’s play, Charlotte won just 36 games last season and missed the playoffs, but beefed up its frontcourt this summer by picking up Dwight Howard from the Hawks. Amid major turnover for much of the Eastern Conference, the Hornets return much of their core and are looking to bounce back—all behind their star point guard.
Kemba took some time to chat in between autograph sessions this past Friday at the NBPA Summer Basketball Camp, which was held at Baruch College in Manhattan last week. He talked about being a role model for up-and-coming basketball players, the resurgence of New York City basketball, his outlook for the Hornets and the NBA’s shortened preseason.
SLAM: Does it ever get old to have kids come up to you at these camps, asking you for autographs and holding your jersey?
Kemba Walker: Nah, not for me. I don’t know if I get as much attention as other people but it’s always a good feeling when you have young kids or anybody come up to you.
SLAM: Would you come to camps as a kid and ever think you could be the guy signing the autographs when you got older?
KW: I never went to camps where NBA guys came and spoke, but I always dreamed of being in this position. Giving back has always been a passion of mine.
SLAM: With the much-hyped summer games at Dyckman Park and top high school recruits in Isaiah Washington and Jahvon Quinerly coming from the tri-state area, do you think New York City basketball is coming back a little bit?
KW: Not really sure, but a lot of those guys are still leaving, they’re from here but they’re not playing college ball here. Isaiah is definitely putting us back on the map in terms of high school basketball though. Hopefully we can have more kids follow in his footsteps because he’s a great young role model and a hell of a role model. I can definitely say it’s coming back.
SLAM: Do you ever talk to Isaiah and those other guys? Ever give them advice?
KW: Not really, I’ve talked to them a couple of times but that’s it. He never asks me for advice and I wouldn’t force any on him. He has my number though and we communicate a little bit. He knows that he can ask me anything.
SLAM: Going to your offseason, where have you been working out?
KW: I’ve just been in Charlotte, that’s where I live full-time.
SLAM: Have a lot of your teammates been there? Has Dwight Howard come by?
KW: A lot of them have been there but Dwight’s been in Atlanta working out. I’ve talked to him though.
SLAM: A bunch of teams in the East, like the Bulls and Pacers, have traded away stars to start revamping their rosters. Do you think that’s going to help you guys?
KW: I do think we have a really solid chance at being a really good team this year. I never really think about those other teams cause I just worry about us, so it depends on how we come out to start the season.
SLAM: The Hornets picked up two guards, Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon, at the draft. How do you envision them fitting into the system?
KW: I spoke to both of them. It’ll be fine, they’re two really good players. It’s not easy to come in and be good right away so as long as they put in the work, they’ll be fine.
SLAM: Is the different structure of the preseason — less games and an earlier start to the regular season — something players like?
KW: I think guys definitely like the fact that the season is going to start faster. It should be good but it doesn’t really matter that much to me. I’m just looking forward to starting.
Photos via Getty Images and NBPA