Walker takes the reins for struggling Bobcats

665474.jpg

Walker takes the reins for struggling Bobcats

BOSTON Scoring. Passing. Deflecting passes.

Kemba Walker is called upon to do a little bit of everything for the Charlotte Bobcats, a role he is quite familiar with after leading the UConn Huskies to their last national championship in 2011.

But team success has been hard to come by for Walker, who was a member of the worst team in NBA history last seasonin Charlotte.

And this season's bunch, while better, is still among the worst in the NBA.

Walker will be the first to tell you that the lack of success he has had professionally has been disappointing. But, in the same breath, the 6-foot-1 guard makes it clear that he's far from discouraged at future prospects, even with the Bobcats about to take on a red-hot Celtics team tonight.

"Of course, the losses, it's been tough," Walker told CSNNE.com. "I just try to maintain the same attitude and stay positive, try to keep my temmates together."

And make no mistake about it. In only his second season, this is indeed Walker's team. And that in and of itself has been a bittersweet experience.

He embraces the leadership responsibilities that he has, but to not be able to lead Charlotte to victories -- something he did often with the Huskies -- has at times been difficult to accept.

"It's been tough of course," said Walker who is averaging 17.6 points and 5.8 assists per game, both team highs. "But at the same time I have such a good group of guys around me. It doesn't affect me as much as much as it should. These guys are doing a good job of staying positive, keeping me positive. We know we're a young team and this is a tough league to win in. We just trying to get better everyday."

And part of that improvement is playing with more effort, more consistently.

"That's the only way we're going to win, and we want to win," Walker said. "We know that playing hard, playing aggressive, we have to play that way through the whole game. We're going to try our best and come out and play hard every night."

Despite Charlotte's struggles, first-year coach Mike Dunlap has nothing but praise for the job that Walker has done for the Bobcats.

"First off, statistically he's dramatically up in everything," Dunlap said. "He leads us in any category that we can invent. We're getting high level play from him night in and night out. Also we have our own deflection chart defensively. He leads us in charges, hands on ball, the whole deal. We can't get much more out of him night in and night out. "

Said Walker: "Coach (Dunlap) has put me in the position to be a leader. And I'm just trying my best to embrace the role."

The value of leadership can only be enhanced by one's play, which is why Walker has had no issues in leading this team despite all but two players -- second-year center Bismack Biyombo and rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- being older than him.

"They (older players) have given me a chance (to lead)," Walker said. "Like I said, these are some great guys and they have given me some great opportunities."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has also recognized the improvements made by Walker this season compared to last year when he was a rookie.

"When you watch the rookies and then you watch them the next year, it's amazing how different they are," Rivers said. "They play at a different pace, better speed. It was really fun watching Kemba on film the last two or three days.

Rivers added, "He's sure of himself now. He knows where he wants to go. He knows he can get his shot now as well. That makes him a heck of a guy to guard."

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

Blakely: Celtics not as feared as they were last season

BOSTON -- On more than one occasion Monday night, the Boston Celtics were a discombobulated bunch with some players thinking they were running one play, while others were thinking the play called was something totally different.
 
You see that stuff in the preseason and to a certain extent in the regular season for a lot of teams. It is in those moments that we’re reminded that this Boston Celtics team is a work in progress on so many levels.
 
Because of that, we all need to hit the pause button when talking about them as a team inching closer towards Eastern Conference supremacy.
 
After the first month of the season, they have yet to show that they are going to be better than last season’s 48-win ball club.
 
The big problem a year ago was the offense bogging down and for the most part, not making shots. This year, it’s the team’s defense that has let them down on many nights.
 
And with that comes a sobering reminder this crew is good, but at best are maybe top-five in the East.
 
As a team on the rise, beating teams you’re not supposed to has to happen with some semblance of regularity.
 
There were only three teams on the Celtics’ docket this season thus far that they should have been beaten by without there being any argument: Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland.
 
They were beaten in all three, two of which (Golden State and Cleveland) had final scores that did not indicate the level of dominance they had over the Celtics.
 
The average margin of defeat in the three games was 9.3 points, but two of them (San Antonio and Golden State) were at the TD Garden, which is supposed to be the equalizer for upset-minded teams.
 
But in each game, Boston put up a decent fight only to fail to emerge victorious.
 
The struggles against the upper echelon teams of the NBA has nothing to do with not having a superstar or a great rebounder or any of the kazillion reasons/excuses offered up as to why they’re not better.
 
It’s hunger.
 
It’s effort.
 
It’s about being blinded by the internet clicks that tout them as one of the best teams in the East, and them not seeing the danger that comes with embracing all that patting on the back.
 
It makes you soft.
 
It makes you fat and happy.
 
And maybe most significant, it creates a false sense of arrival before you’ve left the tarmac.
 
That’s where the Boston Celtics are right now: a team that seems to have forgotten why they were the team nobody wanted to play last year.
 
It wasn’t that teams feared playing them. It was the fact that they knew playing the Celtics would be tough, and it would force them to play a lot closer to their full potential than they were used to if they wanted to win.
 
It was because everyone knew that to beat the Celtics, you don’t have a choice but to play hard because you damn well knew they would.
 
Not anymore.
 
They bring that toughness to the game in small doses, like an intra-venous drip full of hope and promise, providing just enough to life to keep their fans optimistic but not nearly enough to kill the noise of their haters and critics.
 
And while the season is still young, the Celtics need to start racking up some quality wins.
 
Right now, their most impressive win is a toss-up between beating Charlotte 104-98 on Oct. 29, or a 94-92 win at Detroit on Nov. 19.
 
Boston plays at Orlando on Wednesday, a team that’s likely to be back in the lottery again. But after that, they travel back to Boston where they’ll host Toronto -- a game that they desperately need to not only to pad their win total but also provide a much-needed boost of energy and confidence going forward.

The Celtics have to find that hunger, that collective desire that we’ve seen in the past which has propelled them to greater heights than we’ve seen thus far.
 
Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford… you can go down the roster and the mission for all of them has to be the same: play harder, for longer, and be smarter about it, because this team has too much collective talent to be just three games above .500.
 
At 12-9, Boston is third in the East and trail conference-leading Cleveland by three games for the best record in the conference. But then you look at the teams behind the Celtics and realize that they’re only two games out of having the ninth-best record in the East.
 
It speaks in part to the season still being in its infancy stage. But it’s also telling as to how Boston does not have a huge margin of error when it comes to losing winnable games.
 
And as we’ve seen thus far, the Celtics can play with any team in the NBA and hold their own.
 
But beating them is a totally different narrative that this squad has yet to write.