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Kemba Walker has become an MVP-level star, and the Hornets are in position to help everyone realize it

Kemba Walker has become an MVP-level star, and the Hornets are in position to help everyone realize it
Published On: Thu, Nov 01
Apr 29, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) reacts after being called on a foul during the second half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the Miami Heat at Time Warner Cable Arena. Heat win 97-90. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

A funny thing happened in Miami a few weeks ago. With theA HornetsA leading theA HeatA by one and 0.5 seconds left in the game,A Kemba WalkerA missed the second of his two free throws on purpose, a perfectly soft shank off the right side of the rim that retired the last ticks off the clock before the Heat could gather the rebound and call a timeout.

It was a smart play. Nothing genius, but smart. What made it funny was that on a night when Walker had surpassed the 10,000-point mark for his career, a night when he'd brokenA Steph Curry'sA NBAA record by making 19 3-pointers through the first three games of the season, the first thing everybody wanted to ask about was a shot he had missed.A 

"It messed up my 40 points," Walker laughed.

Walker was joking, obviously. But technically he was right. He'd just hung 39 points on Miami. This after scoring 67 points through Charlotte's first two games. Fast forward to now, and he's the second-leading scorer in the league at 30.1 points a game entering Wednesday, trailing only Curry's 32.5 mark. And yet, somehow, you still don't hear all that much about him.A 

It's been this way all of Walker's basketball life, or certainly his NBA life. Small guy in a small market. Easy to overlook. He gets it. And he's OK with it. He knows how big his game is, how hard he works, how far he's come from that six-foot-nothing Superman who led UConn on one of the most magical national championship runs inA NCAA TournamentA history. It's enough for him that the people who count, the ones who really pay attention, know what he's all about. His coaches, his teammates, opposing players and coaches, they all rave about him. They universally refer to him as one of the league's most underrated stars.A 

"He's remarkable," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told CBS Sports. "He's one of those guys you'd pay to watch play, juts because he's so different."

It's true. You just don't see a lot of players like Kemba. Not with that kind of fight, that kind of skill at that size. If we're being honest, you probably have to go back to Allen Iverson to find an equivalent, and man is that saying something. Nobody put on a better show than A.I. Nobody. And Walker, indeed, has always been a great showman. But he hasn't always been a great player. That took time.A 

When Walker first got into the league back in 2011, he was a lightning-quick water bug who would out-compete anyone but couldn't shoot a lick. Three of his first four years he fell short of 40 percent from the field. He was low-30s from three. That's when he went to work. He got with then-Hornets shooting coach Bruce Kreutzer, and later shooting legend Mark Price, who described the work that had to be done on Walker's shooting mechanics as relatively minor.A 

"Arthroscopic surgery," was how Price described to CBS Sports the tweaks that were made to Walker's form. "Whereas with a guy like, say,A Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, it's more like open-heart surgery."

Kidd-Gilchrist, to Price's point, is just never going to be a feared shooter. He's a good player, an athlete, a strong defender who can guard one through four (probably one through five in a pinch) and played 17 straight minutes in Charlotte's aforementioned win over Miami. But as a shooter, incremental improvements are likely the limit. With Walker, the sights were higher. You could see he had the foundation for much bigger strides. Kreutzer suggested that Walker move his shooting pocket slightly to the right, bringing the ball up in more of a straight line, and that he alter his footwork. Specifically, he wanted Walker to launch from the balls of his feet, rather than from his heels, almost a springing action. This was done in an effort to improve Walker's balance, while also speeding up the pace of his shot -- not just the release, but the whole action, from the ground up.A 

Read the complete news article here...


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