Tom Sorensen

Hornets among several OK teams in NBA East, but there is improvement to be seen

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) gets better every year, which is evidence he doesn’t just sit around in the offseason.
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) gets better every year, which is evidence he doesn’t just sit around in the offseason. AP

I still don’t know what to make of the 2017-18 Charlotte Hornets. Although they are more than a quarter of the way into the season, too many players have been hurt to get a feel for what they have.

Here’s what I know: Kemba Walker improves every season, a testament to the work he does in the offseason. He’s an annual contender for the Most Improved Player Award, an award no Hornet has ever won. Walker averages 22.7 points a game. He leads all Eastern Conference guards in scoring, and he’s fourth among point guards league-wide.

The offense is Walker’s, and he averages 6.3 assists per game (for his career he averages 5.4). There might be times you’d like to see him play like an old school point guard and give up the ball up. But to whom do you want him to give it? He’s shooting 44.2 percent from the field. For his career he shoots 41.3%.

You saw Walker at Spectrum Arena Monday in Charlotte’s 104-94 victory against the Orlando Magic. Walker scored 29 points (on 14 field goal attempts) and had seven assists, both game highs.

What I liked was this: Walker had missed the last two games with an injured shoulder and wore padding on it. This doesn’t exactly qualify as breaking news, but Walker is not big, and even with the padding, neither is his shoulder.

Despite the shoulder, Walker took a charge from Orlando’s 185-pound Elfrid Payton, getting knocked hard to the floor. The detail would be more impressive if it had been 255-pound Marreese Speights from whom he’d taken the charge. But Walker might still be there. What Walker did is what leaders do, and this is his team.

The Hornets are in the mix of several OK teams trying to figure out who they are. The idea is to make the playoffs and to avoid East’s two best teams, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Hornets are 8-3 at home going into Wednesday’s game at Spectrum Arena against the Golden State Warriors. They also get the Chicago Bulls at home Friday and the Los Angeles Lakers Saturday.

Stephen Curry didn’t play Wednesday, which disappointed the Davidson fans who would have shown up early in Davidson red to watch Curry warm up.

I ran into Curry in Charlotte after the 2011 draft, the draft in which the Hornets took Walker with the ninth pick of the first round.

“He’s going to be good,” Curry said.

Many fans had reservations about Walker. Curry did not. That’s Davidson insight right there.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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