Kemba Walker Ready to Start in Charlotte
The final tally from last year’s dismal Charlotte Bobcats season is notched in the record books. Charlotte finished last season with a 7-63 record that netted the team a total .106 winning percentage, good for the single worst winning percentage in NBA history.
Now, it’s time to move on.
Following the embarrassment of establishing a new all-time low in NBA regular season futility, the Bobcats have retooled this offseason and are determined to erase the bitter taste left over from last season’s debacle.
Former head coach Paul Silas is gone after nearly two seasons with Charlotte. After winning six of his first eight games at the helm for the Bobcats, management subsequently dismantled a playoff team in favor of draft picks and younger players. Silas had unfortunate timing, being a part of the season in which majority owner Michael Jordan decided the core of Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace would never make the Bobcats legitimate contenders.
There’s little doubt that Jordan’s assumption was correct, although it remains to be seen whether or not getting rid of their best players to secure better talent with awful records and high-end draft picks will end up being the answer in Charlotte.
Moving forward, to replace the old-school Silas, Charlotte has hired a young, up-and-coming head coach in Mike Dunlap, who will look to mold a youthful squad into winners on the NBA-level. Dunlap was a well-regarded assistant coach in the NBA and comes highly recommended from Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl.
A key aspect in how successful Dunlap will be revolves around which young point guard will have the opportunity to lead this franchise back to respectability. Out is D.J. Augustin, who spent his first four seasons in the NBA with Charlotte and split time with Kemba Walker at the position last season. Signed by the Pacers this offseason, Augustin is headed to Indiana to battle with George Hill for minutes but that doesn’t mean that Walker has the starting job sewn up.
In free agency this summer, the Bobcats’ first key move was to sign former Los Angeles Lakers’ starter Ramon Sessions to a two-year, $10 million deal. While he struggled this past postseason with the Lakers, Sessions has proven to be a serviceable starter in his career, who makes his living with penetration to the basket.
Even though Walker is still viewed as the future at the point guard position for Charlotte, the addition of the 26-year-old Sessions – who hails from nearby Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – isn’t going to make that transition easy.
For his part, Walker is confident that his athleticism and playmaking ability will result in his insertion into the Bobcats’ starting five next season.
“Yeah, definitely,” Walker told HOOPSWORLD on if he plans on being the Bobcats’ starter at the point next season. “Why not? I feel like I should start but at the same time whatever happens, happens. I just want to win games and I’m ready to do whatever’s possible to do that.”
During the Las Vegas Summer League just last week, the Bobcats coaching staff concentrated their efforts with Walker on helping him to become a better leader. It seems Walker hasn’t taken that initiative lightly and is working to become a more vocal floor general in Charlotte.
“They just want me to be a leader,” Walker said of Dunlap and his staff. “To be out there and just be as vocal as possible and try to lead my team.”
Hoping to join Walker in Charlotte’s starting five for the 2012-13 season is the Bobcats second overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Before the draft, Charlotte traded veteran swingman Corey Maggette to secure a first-round pick and veteran Ben Gordon – thus setting the stage for MKG to break into the starting five as a rookie.
Walker says the drafting of Kidd-Gilchrist is exactly what the Bobcats need to compliment the rest of the team moving forward.
“Mike is really good,” Walker said, “He’s really intense, he listens really well and he just brings the intensity. That’s the kind of guy we need… I’m excited.”
Currently featuring a roster with nine players at the age of 26 years or younger, two of which are under the legal drinking age in 19-year-old Bismack Biyombo and 18-year old Gilchrist, the youth movement is in full swing in Charlotte. While that may not result in an abundance of wins right off the bat, the Bobcats will be a frenzied and entertaining team to watch on both ends of the court next season. That youthful exuberance is something that characterizes Walker, who looks especially comfortable in Dunlap’s new system.
“I’m excited,” Walker said. “We’ve got some great teammates who play really hard and we’re just trying to really get after it, play some intense defense and play in transition. We’re going to play fast and have fun.”
A playoff berth may not be in the cards for this Bobcats team in the near future, but it’s difficult to see this team breaking any more records for abysmal play next season. For a fan base coming off of a historically bad season, young players like Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Biyombo bring hope that a youth movement of this magnitude could very well be the start of something big in Charlotte.
It may not be enough for the Bobcats to be playing basketball in May, but it might be sufficient to keep the torches and pitchforks out of Bobcats fans’ hands for the 2012-13 season.