Sometimes, basketball is a team sport.
Five players at a given time work together to achieve a goal, all contributing equal shares of their abilities for a greater good of wins and rings and playoff bonuses.
And other times basketball is nothing if not about the individual.
Interestingly enough, this is a classification Kemba Walker has recently shook (along with most other Eastern Conference defenders — BOOM).
A player that many considered to be in the clear mold of Chucker-On-A-Garbage-Team has slowly and consistently evolved into perhaps — perhaps — a truly elite point guard in a league brimming with them.
Which is why last night was a bit of a throwback. All the ingredients seemed in order for a more-of-the-same sandwich of Hornets basketball. The team as a whole is struggling from the field, and so we wait for our miniature savior to take the game over in his flawed but well-meaning way, only 48 hours after a win that could only ever be described as “team”.
But that never happened.
Saying a guy “took over a game” is an interesting phrase. Obviously it’s meant to convey that so-and-so guy from X team played so well that it’s as if his skill set, like, invaded the whole evening. But also there is the implication that the takeover is so complete and dominant and individualistic that the game then becomes actually about that person.
What Kemba Walker did last night (yes, in a losing effort, but just barely) was loads of impressive, given his up-to-this-moment experience as a basketball player. He could’ve started firing away when the team was down and in trouble for most of the first half. And yes, he did shoot and make a lot of shots, but he didn’t TAKE OVER. No good shots for other teammates were rejected for bad shots of his own. He did not take himself out of the flow of an offense noted thus far in this early season for it’s ability to share the ball with one another in a cheap and desperate scorer’s panic. Instead, all he did was get good looks and make buckets.
I think you reach a turning point as a player when the zeitgest no longer questions if your team is good despite your success, but instead, good because of it. Kemba Walker’s life’s work as a pro has been to reach that point, and after last night, I don’t think he’ll ever need to worry about that perception again.
As if he ever did.