Back when Kemba Walker was only a few seasons into his pro career, a former NBA player told a friend that the Charlotte Hornets (then the Bobcats) couldn’t win with Kemba as their point guard. An executive from another team said the same thing. Their contention was that Walker didn’t shoot well enough, but kept on shooting anyway.
Technically, both men are correct. Charlotte has almost never won with Walker. But can you imagine the team without him?
Name a professional player that has improved to the extent that Walker has. He is 27, and in his seventh NBA season, and he does shoot frequently. Early in his career, he had nobody to which to pass. And now? That shot goes in.
When Walker came to Charlotte, he had a New York City jump shot. If you play a lot of playground ball, and you want to hold your place on the court, you aren’t going to shoot a lot of outside shots because the wind can take the ball places you don’t intend.
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Through will and work, Walker has become a shooter. When he puts up a 3, I think, “Good.” The former player and current executive that earlier criticized him might agree.
Both of them are good guys that know the NBA. Neither envisioned the player Walker evolving the way he has.
But he’s more than a point guard. When the Hornets need a player to speak to a group, they often turn to Walker. When the media needs a question answered, we often turn to Walker. When the Hornets need points, they often turn to Walker.
His contract expires after the 2018-19 season. Signing him was shrewd; by NBA standards he is woefully underpaid. He’s also tired of losing.
Hamstrung by large contracts and mediocre drafts, I struggle to see the Hornets making the playoffs next season. There are too many pessimists in sports. So many want to be the first to criticize.
I’d love to see the Hornets win. But with this team at this time, losing seems as indelible as a tattoo.