The Charlotte Bobcats had a few moments throughout the first two months of the season, but the reality is they remain a bad basketball team. That reality is what makes Kemba Walker so good. It’s easy for a guy to put up gaudy numbers on a lottery team, but it’s not easy for a talented player to shine in a bad situation and separate himself from those that pad their stats while the rest of the league feasts on their team.
Walker has done that and more this season.
The Bobcats have a lot of issues, but it’s easy to see that selecting Walker in the 2011 NBA draft was the right decision, perhaps the best in the franchise’s eight-year history. Walker is a heck of a player and has a world of potential. He’s exciting, likable, talented, and confident. It would seem that the Bobcats have a young guy they can build around, but that speaks to the future. In the meantime, Walker has become the go-to guy in Charlotte and quickly gained the trust and respect of his coaches and teammates.
“He just brings it every night,” said Gerald Henderson. “He obviously plays hard and he’s going to compete. But he’s also a very skilled guy and does a lot of things at his size that are special. He’s just doing it every night for us and that’s the biggest thing.”
The mix of Walker’s skills has first-year coach Mike Dunlap leaning heavily on the second-year pro. He’s see’s his star as a one-man wrecking crew and doesn’t intend on getting in the way of his growth or production.
“He’s a one-man break,” Dunlap said. “We encourage him to freestyle until he comes down the floor; the possession is his until he stops. He doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s very responsible with it and is doing a better job of finding other people out of the pick and roll. He’s also right up there for us in charges, hand on balls, deflections and even rebounds.”
Seeing Walker in a feature role with so much confidence from his coach and teammates wasn’t something that was certain. He had a few good games last season, but certainly didn’t do anything to suggest he would be anything different than the Bobcats’ previous high-profile draft picks. Walker, however, has exceeded the expectations of some of his teammates while making people forget about his up and down rookie season.
“You never really know what to expect from a player especially coming off of a season like last year,” Henderson said. “But one thing you’re always going to get from Kemba is someone that competes every night. He’s exceeded my expectations, especially from last year because I don’t think anyone played that well. He’s playing well and having a special year.”
The experience of his rookie year was tremendous for Walker, especially a year with so many challenges at the shortened 2011-12 NBA campaign. It turned into quite the teaching tool for the lead Bobcat.
“It’s all about having one year under your belt,” Walker said. “I was able to realize the things I could do this year after playing and watching film. Things have slowed down for me and I’m able to see and process things much faster.”
Good thing he was able to learn. This season he’s been asked to be the team’s go-to guy and step into a leadership role. That’s a lot to ask of most 22 year olds, but Walker has embraced the challenges and is enjoying the increased responsibility.
“Being a leader is pretty tough,” Walker said. “I’m trying my best to embrace that role and to get better at it each day. The older guys have given me an opportunity to be a leader and it’s been fun.”
The team’s increased confidence in Walker has played a big role in his adjustment. They believe in him and that belief allows him to attack his role without fear of failure.
“It’s all about confidence,” Walker said. “If your coach has confidence in you, well, that’s all you need. It’s easy to play with this team and my teammates have shown that they have confidence in me and that makes it easy to play with these guys.”