Charlotte Bobcats point guard Kemba Walker and coach Mike Dunlap dont always play nice with each other. Thats actually a good thing.
The coach-point guard relationship in basketball, like coach-quarterback in football, is complicated. The point guard has to be a conduit between the coach and the rest of the team on what to do. That puts a premium on communication both ways.
One of the things Walker likes about playing for Dunlap is either one can be frank. After they talk something out, neither walks away from the conversation with hard feelings.
We want to win and were both intense, Walker said Wednesday, following a 98-97 victory over the Toronto Raptors. We dont ever get mad if one of them speaks his mind directly.
If theres any problem and this is with everybody he wants to us to be on the same page.
This isnt something new for the Bobcats. When point guard Raymond Felton played for coach Larry Brown, those two got into animated debates behind closed doors. Theyd hash things out and then it would be over. Respectful, yet direct.
So when someone asked whats different about the Bobcats this season, Walker had a quick answer:
Toughness, Walker responded. I think we get that from our leader, coach Dunlap. Hes really intense and we feed off of that.
Dunlap feels similarly about Walker. When he got the job in June, Dunlap pointed out Walker as the player with huge potential. After an inconsistent rookie season, Walker is living up to all that, averaging 18.8 points, 2.4 steals and a slew of high-pressure baskets.
Its in his DNA, Dunlap said, referring to how Walker led Connecticut to the 2011 national championship.
Before accepting the Bobcats job, Dunlap coached at St. Johns on the same staff with Walkers former high school coach, Moe Hicks. Dunlap said he spent considerable time debriefing Hicks on how best to use Walker. Its working.
He hates to lose, Dunlap said.
And hes getting some help. The Bobcats signed veteran point guard Ramon Sessions over the summer. One of the more successful wrinkles this early season has been playing Walker and Sessions together for long stretches. In that pairing Sessions is more the distributor, leaving Walker free to be a scorer. And some of the nuances Sessions understands a feel for tempo, for instance -- are rubbing off on Walker.
Hes learning a lot from Ramon Sessions, Dunlap said. Its moving up his development.