Kemba Walker Returns to New England in Midst of Up-And-Down Rookie Campaign


Kemba Walker Returns to New England in Midst of Up-And-Down Rookie CampaignBobcats coach Paul Silas hates to call plays.

That should tell fans all they need to know about Kemba Walker, the shoot-first rookie guard who has been instructed by Silas to run a lot of set plays.

Walker, who led UConn on an unforgettable run to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship last March and April, returns to New England for the first time as a professional when the Bobcats visit the Celtics on Tuesday. Walker is clearly working his way through his development into an NBA point guard, even if that sounds blasphemous to many Huskies diehards.

Walker has started 12 games at the point this season, but at this moment he is a point guard in name only. Rick Bonnell, who covers the Bobcats for the Charlotte Observer, noted that Silas dislikes calling plays when D.J. Augustin is running the show. Silas, a former inhabitant of the free-flowing systems in Boston and Phoenix, values freedom in a basketball offense.

As a coach, Silas was part of staffs that handed the reins to guards like Baron Davis and Kevin Johnson, then stepped back and watched the fireworks.

Then Augustin broke his right big toe and Walker, who had been used as an instant-offense backcourt option off the bench or an occasional starter at off-guard, became Charlotte's starting point guard. Possibly in response to Walker's 4-for-19 brick show against the Wizards on Jan. 25, Silas admitted that he intended to call more plays going forward. The zero-conscience offensive style the 6-foot-1 Walker utilized with such success in college has almost never translated to the pro game for a guard of Walker's size.

Allen Iverson and Nate Archibald were the exceptions who prove the rule. Even Davis and Johnson, both of whom averaged more than 20 points per game, were elite distributors.

The discipline hasn't completely paid off for Walker yet. Since Silas announced his intentions, Walker put together a 5-for-14 shooting performance against Philadelphia and a 1-for-11 night against Portland, although he did have his best game in the NBA with a triple-double against Washington.

Walker's decent stat line of 12.3 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game is misleading. He takes an insane number of long two-point jumpers (otherwise known as the worst shots in basketball), which mostly explains his .366 field goal percentage. He averages four attempts per game from 16-23 feet out, more than twice the league average, according to HoopData, and he hits less than a third of those shots.

The signs aren't all bad. Walker so far has surprisingly improved his range as a pro, knocking down 36 percent of his 3-pointers. That's a better percentage than he had in any of his three years at UConn, where the 3-point arc was much closer, and it's a few points higher than the league average mark of 34 percent. If Walker can restrain himself from taking a few 20-footers, as well as take a step back to turn some of his 22-footers into 3's, he and the Bobcats would be much better off.

When Charlotte gets the ball Tuesday, check out Walker's body language. If he turns to the bench to get instructions from Silas, he's getting it. If he takes off like a sinner wearing a gasoline suit in Hell, there is still work to be done.

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