Parker, Walker eager to build Hornets into a winner together
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tony Parker is excited about finishing his impressive NBA career with the Hornets after 17 seasons with the Spurs. Kemba Walker said he wants to stay in Charlotte, too.
The two point guards are at vastly different stages of their careers, but both share the same goal — to make Charlotte a perennial playoff team.
Parker expects no less.
He’s already told his new teammates, “Don’t mess with my playoff streak.”
The 36-year-old Parker has never missed the playoffs, winning four NBA championships along the way. Walker has become a two-time All-Star despite playing on a Hornets team that hasn’t won a playoff series since Parker’s rookie season in 2001-02.
Walker, 28, will become a highly sought after free agent next season but said he emphatically Monday that he has no desire to join a so-called super team.
“I don’t want to be nowhere else,” said Walker, the Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. “You see guys who are on elite teams. I don’t want to do that. I want to create something special here in Charlotte, something that we have never had here before. I want to create some consistency.”
Walker said he’s “confident” the Hornets will try to resign him next summer, adding “I just have that feeling.”
Parker’s decision to leave the Spurs for the Hornets shocked many around the NBA world given his loyalty to coach Gregg Popovich, but not fellow Frenchman and close friend Nicolas Batum.
They’ve played together for years with the French national team and have formed such a close relationship over the years that they consider each other brothers. Batum, the Hornets small forward, said he and Parker discussed the prospect of coming to Charlotte before it came to fruition.
Along with playing alongside Batum again, Parker liked the idea of playing for new Hornets coach James Borrego, a former Spurs assistant, and owner Michael Jordan.
“Growing up, Michael Jordan was my idol,” said Parker, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Charlotte. “I would wake up at 3 in the morning (in France) to watch all of his games. So for me it is like coming full circle to play the last couple of years for his team. It’s a great honor.”
Parker will have to make adjustments though.
Outside of an injury-plagued season a year ago, he’s always been a starter.
But this year he will have to take a backseat to Walker, a role he said he’s ready to accept.
However, Borrego said Walker and Parker will often be paired together in the backcourt in the fourth quarter of tight games.
“Tony is very comfortable in fourth quarter situations,” Borrego said. “We will be in that fourth quarter situation a ton this year — and we have to close. Now it’s up to me and my staff to figure out how to close with those guys on the floor.”
Parker said it doesn’t matter what his role is with the Hornets, saying “I’m up for anything.”
“If I finish games, great. If I don’t, that’s fine too,” Parker said. ”... Kemba needs to be that leader on the court. I will help him out being a different type of leader.”
Parker said that means helping Walker take the next step in his progression as a point guard, particularly improving as a ball distributor.
“I was in the same spot as him once. I was a good scorer. But to be a great point guard you have to do both,” Parker said. “You have to know when to score and when to pass and involve your teammates. He’s made the last two All-Star games, but I told him, ‘Hey, All-Stars is great, but it’s better to win and have success in the playoffs.’”
Walker couldn’t agree more.
“I just want to win,” Walker said.
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