The 2017-18 NBA season has been a season of ups and downs for a number of players. In the case of star point guards Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas, their seasons can’t get any more different.
Kemba Walker is having perhaps the best season of his career. The 6-foot-1 guard scored 21 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday to become the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leading scorer, according to NBA.com.
Walker needed 20 points to break the record previously held by Dell Curry, who was watching the game from his broadcaster’s seat. Curry scored 9,839 points in his ten seasons with the Hornets. Walker scored his 9,840th and 9,841st points on a reverse layup with 20 seconds left in the game. It was a bittersweet moment for Walker, however, as the Hornets came up short against the Cavaliers, 118-105, thanks to LeBron James and his 41 points.
While being interviewed after the game, Walker broke down as emotions got the better of him.
“It was just pretty emotional,” Walker said. “I really wish I would have played better earlier and we would have had a more competitive game but it’s still a huge accomplishment. For my family to be here and all the fans cheering me on like that, especially because we lost, they made it pretty special anyway.”
Fellow NBA personalities shared their thoughts on Walker’s milestone.
After the game, James walked over to Walker and told him it was an incredible feat to be the all-time scorer of any franchise. Hornets owner Michael Jordan said in a statement that he’s “really happy for Kemba” and that “becoming a franchise’s all-time leading scorer is a big accomplishment.”
“It’s a testament to his hard work, dedication and passion for the game of basketball,” Jordan said.
For Isaiah Thomas, things haven’t been going his way since his days with the Boston Celtics.
Thomas will miss the rest of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers as the diminutive point guard is scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure on his right hip, according to ESPN. The Lakers announced on Wednesday that Thomas will have arthroscopic surgery on his right hip as he attempts to regain his old form, which made him a high-scoring crowd darling at Boston.
As Sports Illustrated put it, Thomas’ nightmarish season is officially over and in comes a plethora of questions. The basketball world is now wondering whether Thomas will recover the athletic skills that turned him from an afterthought in the 2011 NBA Draft to a bonafide star, ranking fifth in the race for Most Valuable Player in 2017.
Another lingering question with Thomas is if he can finally turn into a respectable defender. Despite his athleticism and grit, Thomas’ small stature has kept him from being a defensive dynamo. If Thomas fails to fully recover from his hip injury, there’s a chance he’ll be even more of a defensive liability for whichever team he signs with after the season.
Speaking of, Thomas’ future is even murkier than ever after he went down. When everything was falling for Thomas, he was expected to command a hefty contract. Since he was injured, traded twice, and sidelined once more, the price for signing Thomas has understandably gone south.
The Lakers will be eyeing big-time free-agents this offseason with NBA superstars LeBron James, Paul George, and maybe even the injured DeMarcus Cousins in their sights. If the franchise fails to sign any of them, Magic Johnson and the rest of the Lakers bigwigs will likely save their valuable cap space for the 2019 offseason when the likes of L.A. natives Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are available. This means Thomas will not get a long-term contract if he re-signs with the Lakers.
On a positive note, Lakers coach Luke Walton thinks Thomas fits well with his current teammates particularly forwards Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma. The Lakers make take this into account once everything is a bit clearer with regards to Thomas’ recovery.