I understand I've been AWOL without any explanation for the past month or so. Long story short, I left Rufus on Fire in the more-than capable hands of Mr. Huchton and Mr. Priemski while I tended to my Bobcats internship, which wrapped up this past Friday. Regardless, I'm back now! And just in time for
summer league free agent signings crippling sadness!
But while the depressing lockout continued, an interesting trend began: NBA players are taking to the mean streets in search of pickup ball, most noticeably in the Hoops Mecca, a little place called ‘New York City.' Residents of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn reportedly said about this New York City, "Pfft, it's kind of obscure. I doubt you've heard of it."
Anyway, at these pickup games and proams located at courts like New Yorks' Rucker Park, Dyckman and Gauchos; Los Angeles' Drew League; Washington, D.C.'s Goodman League; the Philippine All-Star Game and plenty of others, NBA players are out showing their skills with the rock for the love of the game. Kevin Durant recently dropped 66 points at the Rucker, Brandon Jennings is in his element...and now even one of the newest Charlotte Bobcats is getting in on the action.
Hit the jump for more videos of Kemba Walker's big game, details and a little analysis.
This past Saturday, Kemba Walker teamed up with Brandon Jennings to play at Dyckman Park, though weather forced a move indoors to the New York Gauchos gym. The end result (as you can guess, considering their team had two NBA players on it) was a win, with Walker racking up 34 points and Jennings with 35. And just recently, I found great highlight clips from the game on YouTube, which are embedded all over this page. So let's take a quick look at these and see what we can gather from some of the first footage of Kemba playing competitive basketball since the NBA Draft at the end of June.
NOTE: do not expect to see defense, or at least of any adequate nature. Understand that these highlights don't mean I think this is indicative of what Kemba can immediately translate to the NBA game. Don't take these highlights with a grain of salt. Take them with, like, a really big rock of salt.
Taking a look at the clip from above, you can notice a few things The defense is amazingly awful. The unfortunate defender was stuck trying to guard two guys behind the arc: Walker and some fellow wearing #44. He lapsed mentally for a second trying to switch to Kemba, and while he slowly switched, it was already too late. With an opening suitable for a freight train, Walker utilized his quick first step, blew by his defender and displayed his great explosiveness in flight to flush the ball past the rim and through the nylon (while the interior help defender found his feet to be magically nailed to the floor).
In the immediate reactions after the draft and analysis afterwards, people scratched their head with bemused puzzlement. To those not well acquainted with the Bobcats, the team's current starting point guard D.J. Augustin is too similar to Walker - they're both undersized and they're both quick. But one of the things that I've hardly ever seen people talk about is the difference in athleticism. While Augustin is quite athletic in that he's fast and has good body control, Walker also has those attributes and has better leaping ability (Walker's max vert = 39.5 inches, Augustin's = 35 inches, according to Draft Express). But let's not make this article into Kemba vs. Augustin. Moving on.
In high school, my cross country coach used to call the zone in a race where you and your opponent were battling way out ahead of the pack, the "Torture Chamber." Everyone was so far away, it was just you and your man. You either took him into the Torture Chamber, destroying his will and physically destroying him and his endurance, or he did it to you, leaving you to watch him kick dirt in your face while he sped to the finish line.
The above clip is one of the closest things to the Torture Chamber I've seen in basketball in recent memory. Taking #11 mano a mano, Walker sizes up the defender with a few crossovers, drives right, crosses left with his defender's feet still facing right. The defender rushes over, off-balance and overcompensating for the move. Kemba stops on a dime, spins around his man, regains his dribble and finishes the layup as the help defense was too busy counting the number of lights on the ceiling or something. And just like that, Walker's man is destroyed. By the time Kemba recovers the ball after a mishandle beneath the hoop, his man is three feet away, watching Kemba finish off an eviscerating combination of ankle-wrecking moves with a simple layup.
But note this: while it was a fantastic move, it was not close to perfect at all. Walker nearly loses the ball twice: first, shortly after the inbounds, and later right under the basket after the spin move. It also shouldn't go unnoticed that he definitely carried the ball once or twice. But it wouldn't be a pickup game if someone didn't carry the ball. The absence of any help defense should also keep you from going completely gaga over the clip, too. Take this with the rock of salt, people!
Sheesh. So fast. ...And so many bad defensive decisions in transition by the blue team. Yeah, and I'm sure there's probably a carry or something in there, though my eyes right now are too tired to catch it when someone's going this fast in traffic. Anyway, a pretty spectacular coast-to-coast transition from Walker with the finish over a contesting defender.
The next two videos I don't have too much to say about. Walker shows some good ballhandling (and what I'm sure is a carrying violation at some point, not to mention ushering his defender's hand away while he drives in the first clip. But dang it, can't we just enjoy some fancy ballhandling without having to say, "Welp, in the NBA, that's getting called!"). He's so fast and the defense is so bad, it's too much fun to watch.
And the final two videos are Walker-thrown alley-oops, one of which is a very blurry bomb to a very blurry Brandon Jennings. The other is another nice bomb from about the same distance on the other side of the court. Nice awareness.
Now don't take this for more than what it is. My goal here was to just look at how Walker played, dissect a few of these plays and make some base analysis, like how he can be quite explosive, quick and yet also seemed to have a problem keeping full control of the ball during the one-on-one play that included the spin move. Just because we see him carry the ball a few times doesn't mean he will in the NBA. And likewise, just because we saw him put a man from Dyckman on greased-up roller skates doesn't mean he can do that in the league either.
It's just so sad that we won't be able to see the product of Kemba's hard work and talent on an NBA court for what looks like a long time.