Steep learning curve for Kemba Walker

One of the most important things any player can have is the respect of his head coach.

Luckily for Kemba Walker, he was able to grab the respect of Paul Silas early in the season despite his slow start. Over his first three games, Walker averaged a paltry 9.7 points and 3.3 assists. However, over his last five games he has averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 assists.

According to Silas, the slow start Walker went through didn’t worry him because it is part of the learning curve every rookie goes through.

“He’s learning the game,” Silas explained to the media. “He’s learning how he fits. His penetration to the hoop is really good but early on wasn’t finishing his shots when he was going to the hoop. He knows when to shoot now. When to pass. It’s just a matter of the experience that he is gaining in the nearly 30 games now that he has played. He has great, great upside.”

One of the ways Walker has been able to find his confidence and get into a groove has been through a bump in his minutes. Starting point guard DJ Augustin missed 11 games recently due to an injury which has allowed Walker to average 35.4 minutes per game during that time frame.

“I think it’s just me feeling more comfortable out there,” Walker told me. “The game is slowing down a lot more for me now. I’m just out there being a lot more patient and I’m taking advantage of my opportunities.”

However, with Augustin returning to the starting line-up this weekend, it has meant Walker has moved back to his role as a scoring spark off of the bench.

“They are going to get minutes, maybe just not as many,” Silas told the media when asked about his rookies. “When they go out there they are going to be a lot better and a lot more confident then they would be if they weren’t playing right now.”

According to Silas, you can chalk this up to the natural learning curve that any young player adjusting to the NBA goes through.

“The thing you need to understand is it normally takes a player two or three years to be pretty good in this league and to be really good it takes four to five years,” Silas said. “So you can’t just throw guys out there that haven’t played and expect for them to respond right away. Even Kobe (Bryant), when he was a rookie, wasn’t a great player. It just takes time. They have to keep working and I love that my (young) guys are working unbelievably hard.”

While Walker has been posting solid numbers and even earned an invite to the Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend, he was able to admit that adjustment to the NBA was a bit more difficult than he expected.

“It’s just a whole new learning process,” Walker admitted to me. “The difference between college basketball and the NBA feels like a whole different game between traveling and playing so many more games in such a short period of time. It’s tough.”

While the adjustment has been tough, there’s no doubt in the mind of Silas that his rookie point guard has the toughness to adapt.

“Kemba (Walker) just has a lot of toughness about him, both mentally and physically,” Silas boasted to the media. “Initially he had to find out about playing in the NBA, because college and the pros are totally different. Now he’s really coming around. You can see it out there when he’s on the court or even when you’re talking with him. He understands a lot better what is going on. As I said earlier, it’s going to take this year and next year before he gets to where he is going to be, but he’s going to be terrific.”

Walker is an immensely talented and tough player was primed to enjoy a long and successful career whether or not his coach had his back. But, having Silas in his corner and raving about him is sure to have helped his confidence and development.

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About justinwelton
Justin Welton, founder of BaselineHoops, has been writing about a variety of sports for more than three years. He has been featured on latimes.com, philly.com, stltoday.com, SFGate.com, Chron.com and seattlepi.com.

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