Stay out of the air. Play below the rim. Keep your feet on the ground.
They seem like weird things to tell an NBA player, especially one who is generously listed at 6-foot-1 like the Charlotte Bobcats Kemba Walker.
But new Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap believes that Walkers gruesome shooting percentage for his rookie season 36.6 percent will improve along with his total assists if he will look before he leaps.
Said Dunlap of Walker: Last year he would get up in the air a lot, and it was difficult for him up there. So were working on teaching him to play on the ground and service other people within the spacing of our (fast) break.
Walker has a tremendous first step and great confidence. He used both to lead the University of Connecticut to the 2011 national championship and convince the Bobcats to select him with the No.9 pick of the 2011 draft.
In the NBA, Walkers quickness still allows him to get into the lane. But too often as a rookie Walker would get to within six feet of the goal, fling himself into the air and throw up a prayer over an opposing center. Walker seemed to specialize in 4-for-13 shooting nights.
After winning 32 games at UConn during his national championship season, Walker won less than a fourth that many for a 7-59 Bobcats team that ended the season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
It was tough, Walker said. Especially coming off such a great year that I had, and then coming in here and struggling like that. At the same time, it humbled me. It just made me work extremely hard and gave me an idea of what it takes to win at this level.
Walker still averaged 12.1 points and 4.4 assists per game as a rookie, which was enough for the Bobcats to basically hand the starting point guard job to him in the offseason when D.J. Augustin departed for Indiana.
On Sunday, Walkers first preseason game under the new coaching regime was promising. Walker started and played a controlled 22 minutes, pushing the ball without forcing it up. He took only five shots, making three of them, while adding three assists and three steals. Most importantly, the Bobcats won by 12 over Washington. This Charlotte team has won so little together that even an exhibition win helps.
New faces, new jerseys, a fresh new start, Walker said. I cant wait to start things up, just really bond with my teammates and get things rolling . Im just trying to be more efficient, be more consistent. Consistency was probably one of my biggest problems last season. I want to go out there and be able to give my team a great effort every night.
Effort has never really been the problem with Walker, but he was inefficient last season. And he didnt get to the foul line enough. Dunlap wants to see more of that, although Walker didnt shoot any free throws in the first exhibition.
Last year was a far cry from UConns run to the national title, when Walker became a household name during March Madness.
Theres a Kemba that played at UConn, and thats why he was picked so high, Dunlap said. We want to get to that Kemba as much as we can.
If Sundays game was any indication, Walker may be soaring toward the old Kemba without ever leaving the ground.