Stay out of the air. Play below the rim. Keep your feet on the ground.
They seem like weird things to tell an NBA player, especially one who is generously listed at 6-foot-1 like the Charlotte Bobcats’ Kemba Walker.
But new Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap believes that Walker’s gruesome shooting percentage for his rookie season – 36.6 percent – will improve along with his total assists if he will look before he leaps.
Said Dunlap of Walker: “Last year he would get up in the air a lot, and it was difficult for him up there. So we’re working on teaching him to play on the ground and service other people within the spacing of our [fast] break.”
Walker has a tremendous first step and great confidence in his ability. He used both to lead the University of Connecticut to the 2011 national championship and convince the Bobcats to select him with the No.9 pick of the 2011 draft.
In the NBA, Walker’s quickness still allows him to get into the lane. But too often as a rookie Walker would get to within six feet of the goal, fling himself into the air and throw up a prayer over an opposing center that was fortunate to hit the backboard. He seemed to specialize in 4-for-13 shooting nights.
After winning 32 games at UConn during his national championship season, Walker won less than a fourth that many for a 7-59 Bobcats team that ended the season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
“It was tough,” Walker said. “Especially coming off such a great year that I had, and then coming in here and struggling like that. At the same time, it humbled me. It just made me work extremely hard and gave me an idea of what it takes to win at this level.”
I'll write more about Kemba and the Bobcats in Tuesday's Charlotte Observer.