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Kemba Walker keeps getting better - but can the Hornets make it matter?

Kemba Walker keeps getting better - but can the Hornets make it matter?
Published On: Thu, Nov 08
Apr 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) reacts after being called on a foul during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Time Warner Cable Arena. Heat win 97-90. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

After his aging but still star-ladenA Boston CelticsA dispatched theA Cleveland LeBronsA in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals,A Kevin GarnettA was asked about the impending free agency of Northeast Ohio's homegrown hero.

"Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can't get your youth back,"A saidA Garnett, who'd been fiercely devoted to theA Minnesota TimberwolvesA before being traded to Boston three years prior, and had consequently spent the first 12 seasons of his magnificent career surrounded by middling supporting casts that he carried to very-goodness but never greatness. "I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now ... I'd have done it a little sooner."

Two months later,A JamesA went on national television and uttered theA eight infamous wordsA that set the template for the modern superteam and irreversibly reshaped NBA power dynamics. Being the sole elite player on a team has never really been a recipe for contention, but it's become increasingly untenable since The Decision. (Look no further than James' latest free-agent adventure for evidence.) And just a few months ago, Garnett's come-to-Jesus moment resonated with another superstar who'd spent his first six NBA seasons marooned on an island of mediocrity.

"When you hear that, it makes you think,"A PelicansA big manA Anthony DavisA saidA of Garnett's comments this past March. "I'm not gonna lie, it makes you think. Because you wonder if you're following in that same path."

With that in mind, let's talk aboutA Kemba WalkerA and theA Charlotte Hornets.

First off: Walker is not Garnett, or LeBron, or Davis. He's not a generational talent capable of dragging a team to relevance by himself or altering the entire landscape of the NBA with one swoop of the pen. There's also been no indication that he intends to look elsewhere when he becomes a free agent for the first time in the summer. In fact, when trade rumors about him bubbled up last season, WalkerA saidA he'd be "devastated" if the Hornets dealt him, and when he was asked this past summer about one day playing for his hometownA New York Knicks, heA said, "I doubt it. I'm a Hornet, and I'm planning on being a Hornet for a long time."

But WalkerA isA a shipwrecked superstar who's blossomed into one of the NBA's best, wiliest, and most watchable players; a skittering waterbug of a point guard who's built one of the game's deadliest pull-up jumpers basically from scratch, adding it to his expansive toolbox of feints, hesitations, and herky-jerky dribble moves. He's a virtuosic ball-handler, a purveyor of whip-quick crossovers, a step-back artist, a three-level scorer, and a master of tight-space manipulation. He doesn't turn the ball over. He doesn't miss games. He plays with joy. He plays with fire. His game is full of flavor. Kemba Walker is good as hell, and he's getting better all the time.

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