Hawks brace for visit from Hornets, Walker
The trade deadline has come and gone, and Kemba Walker is still a member of the Charlotte Hornets. Now the high-scoring point guard will get another chance to feast against one of his favorite foes.
Walker and the Hornets visit the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, the second stop on their four-game road trip.
Walker is putting together another outstanding season, averaging 24.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. His numbers against Atlanta are just as good: 23.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.7 steals in three meetings in 2018-19. He averaged 29.3 points in four games against the Hawks last season.
Walker will be a free agent this summer, and there was some discussion about whether the club would move him before the deadline.
"I'm optimistic and I'm hopeful, as I always have been, that Kemba starts his career in a Hornets uniform and ends it in one," Charlotte general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a conference call this week.
Walker is currently making $12 million, a low figure for an All-Star. The Hornets would be able to offer Walker more than any other suitor in free agency.
This will be the final meeting of the season between the two Southeast Division rivals. Both teams have held serve on their own home court, Charlotte winning two games in North Carolina and Atlanta winning the previous meeting in Georgia by one point.
The Hornets have dropped their past two games, including a 99-93 road defeat against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
Atlanta had its two-game winning streak broken on Thursday night by the Toronto Raptors in a 119-101 home loss. The Hawks scored 68 points in the first half, leading at one time by 17 points, but mustered only 33 after halftime. The lack of consistency has been an issue for Atlanta, one of the youngest teams in the league.
"We thought it was going to come easy for us in the second half, and it didn't," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. "Finish has been a key word for us all year. I thought we were complacent (in the second half)."
While Charlotte remained idle at the trade deadline, Atlanta made several minor moves.
The Hawks traded guard Tyler Dorsey to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for ex-Hawk Shelvin Mack, but they waived Mack on Friday. They obtained Jabari Bird from the Boston Celtics in a cash deal, but on Friday they waived the beleaguered guard, who faces domestic violence charges and has not played this season. The Hawks also waived Daniel Hamilton to clear a roster spot.
Charlotte will be without veteran Tony Parker, who left the Tuesday game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a back injury and did not play Wednesday against Dallas.
The Hornets just got Cody Zeller back from a broken right hand that caused him to miss 16 games. He returned with a removable brace on his hand. Zeller has played the past two games, averaging 7.5 points and 12 rebounds in those contests.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 8, 2019