“I signed for Monaco because I felt they wanted me.” This season, Monaco has relied on NBA leader Kemba Walker, 33, a four-time All-Star, despite a stubborn left knee and communication that fuels doubts. When, on July 21, Monaco announced the signing of the American, the news caused a sensation in the world of European basketball. Four times selected for the NBA All-Star Game between 2017 and 2020, Walker is a very solid playmaker (1.83 m for 83 kg), experienced, with high-flying statistics.
He is thus the best scorer in the history of the Charlotte Hornets, with a record of 60 points in a game. He also has 781 NBA games played, including 750 in the regular season. However, for three years, his left knee has been causing him pain. And he is nothing more than a shadow of himself. Moreover, last season, Walker only played nine games with the Dallas Mavericks, who had recruited him free in November, before cutting him in January. Although he participated in the Monegasque pre-season training camp in Bormio in Italy, then in Turkey, Walker has still not played a single meeting with the Roca Team.
“For the moment, the staff is trying to protect me as best they can,” he admits. I cannot give a precise date regarding my return. But I am confident. I will be able to play. I hope it will be as quickly as possible. I do everything with the staff for that.” According to internal medical protocol, a return to court is not planned before mid-October. This would correspond to Monaco's first match of the season at home in the Euroleague, against Bologna on the 2nd day of the competition, scheduled for October 13.
Until then, will the American star be able to regain enough physical strength to once again become a major player in the Euroleague, where he knows that “the spaces are smaller than in the NBA”? The question remains. Very pragmatic, coach Sasa Obradovic specifies: “We will wait until he is fully recovered to start him. But everyone knows their level and their value when they are in good shape. I am also counting on him to act as a model.”
At this level, Walker already seems to be unanimous on the Rock. His teammates appreciate his humility and the content of the discussions proposed. John Brown III would, for example, “never imagine one day being in the same squad as Kemba”. “We always ask the question about his knee and his health,” continues Oleksiy Yefimov, the Monegasque general manager. But when you talk to those who have been around him, they all say he is a very good person. Kemba is a mastermind of the game. He will make an impact on and off the field. That’s why we targeted him from the start.”
Walker does not hesitate, in return, to speak of a “great team” when he talks about the squad of the French champions. “If the NBA is the highest level, many NBA players would like to try an experience in Europe,” he further emphasizes. And as a leader, he concludes: “I don’t know what impact I can have on others in the NBA. But signing for Monaco is a personal choice. I discovered this magnificent place four or five years ago during a sponsor promotion tour. I signed for Monaco because I felt they wanted me. The people at the club all opened their arms to me. They make things easy for me. I want to be back as soon as possible.” History of also influencing the game...