Coming off a career year, Kemba Walker has elevated his goals for himself and his team.
The Charlotte Hornets point guard won't rest on the laurels of his first All-Star nod. Nope. Instead, he hopes to make that an annual tradition, and has his sights set on another major milestone.
"All-NBA would be a huge honor, a huge challenge for myself," the 27-year-old Bronx native said Thursday at an NBA 2K18 preview event in New York.
Walker's improved every year since entering the league in 2011, and notched a career-high 23.2 points per game to go along with 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 2016-17. He carried his team's offensive load efficiently, scoring at a 44.4 percent clip from the field and 40 percent from long range, and finished sixth in the NBA in made 3-pointers.
He'll need to continue that ascension in order to be considered for an All-NBA spot, which is bestowed upon the top 15 players in the Association, including six guards.
More important to Walker than his stats and individual accolades, though, is his team's success. The 6-foot-1 floor general is focused on leading his squad back to the postseason after finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference.
"I definitely want to continue to make the All-Star team, of course, but the main goal is to get my team to the playoffs," he said.
Moreover, Walker wants to will his club to contending more consistently, having reached the playoffs in only two (2014 and 2016) of his six years in the league.
"I hate missing the playoffs," he admitted. "It's like we get in, then we're not, we miss it, then we're in. I want to be more consistent making the playoffs so hopefully we start that this season."
The club's most glaring problems last year were its weak bench, defense that dropped off from previous years, and struggles closing out games, having gone 0-9 in matchups decided by three points or fewer.
Walker expressed approval of those moves, saying: "I'm definitely very optimistic. I'm excited. We have a great team. Guys are working really hard. I'm super pumped. I'm excited to get things started."
"I think it does give us a higher chance to get to the playoffs for sure," Walker said, adding that nothing's guaranteed and his team still has to work for it.
"It's up to us, depends on how we work and how we gel together and the year we have. It's on us."
Walker, who underwent left knee surgery over the summer, said his knee feels great and he's ready to go. Charlotte opens the regular season on Oct. 18 against the Detroit Pistons.