Hawks Narrowly Avoid Elimination

Every year during the NBA playoffs, there comes a moment where a team has a choice to lay down and allow their opponents to get some rest before inevitably heading to the next round, or choose to keep fighting in hopes of pulling off an improbable comeback.

Faced with a “win or stay home” scenario, the Atlanta Hawks nearly handed the Boston Celtics a win but hung in to earn a 87-86 victory in Atlanta.

After a successful but tough season, Hawks coach Larry Drew felt that his team was ready for the challenge of fighting out there way out of a 3-1 hole.

“I think we have had a really good season up until this point. We have overcame a lot of adversity through the course of the season,” Drew said before the game. “This team that has shown that they can take the challenge, especially when you talk about dealing with adversity and tough times.”

The Hawks definitely did their part to keep things interesting, as they made several runs but the Celtics responded at the end of every quarter, making it a back-and-forth battle all the way until the final possession.

After being down as much as ten in the second quarter, the Hawks made a furious run to close the half, making four consecutive three pointers, including two from Marvin Williams. In most cases this would leave a team with a bit of momentum going into the second half. However, a couple of free throw makes and a big dunk from Celtic big man Brandon Bass kept the Hawks from running away. To make things worse, Rajon Rondo drilled a three at the buzzer to send the teams to the Locker-room tied at 40.

In the third quarter, the Hawks played some of the best basketball they’ve played all series. Sparked by a fiery Al Horford who was playing in his first game in Philips arena since undergoing season ending surgery back in January, the Hawks soared to a 12-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the third. Then Rondo struck again.

Rondo closed out the quarter with six points, one assist, one steal and one rebound in the last two minutes and 42 seconds of the third to cut the lead to two.

In the final period the Hawks got the lead back up to seven, but the Celtics crept their way back getting the lead down to one with 10 seconds left to play.

Then Rondo struck. Again.

A Josh Smith inbound bounce pass was intercepted by Rondo giving the Celtics one last crack at closing the series in Atlanta. Luckily for the Hawks, the Celtics seemed so caught off guard by Smith’s blunder that they were unable to get off a good shot.

With the series heading back to Boston for Game 6, the Hawks will once again have their backs against the wall as they go against a pesky Rondo, a hot Paul Pierce and bustling away crowd.

Pierce, Celtics Steal One In Atlanta

After jumping out to a sizable lead early and weathering the storm late to beat the Boston Celtics in game one of their Eastern Conference matchup, the Atlanta Hawks found themselves in trap game heading into the second game of the series Tuesday night.

The Hawks had a lot of things in their favor. Ray Allen has yet to return to action for the Celtics, as he has been plagued with an ailing ankle. Rajon Rondo was forced to sit Tuesday’s contest out because of the infamous bump heard ‘round the world. To top things off, the Hawks again had home court advantage.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of it all is that the Hawks knew exactly what they were getting into.

“We can’t come out thinking that [with] no Rondo that it’s going to be an easy game,” Larry Drew said before the game. “We have to bring our A-game, because our B-game isn’t going to get it done. “

But pre-game coach preachiness was not enough to prevent Atlanta from suffering one of the most embarrassing collapses they have had all season to the tune of an 87-80 loss.

One would think the team missing their starting point guard would be the one to struggle offensively, but with the game on the line, a stellar performance from Paul Pierce and tough Celtics defense left the Hawks looking dazed and confused.

After struggling the entirety of Game 1, Pierce looked like a man on a mission. The 2008 Finals MVP scorched the Hawks for game-highs 36 points and 14 rebounds. In the fourth quarter Pierce knocked down 5-of-7 from the field for 13 points. Atlanta struggled connecting on just 4-of-19 attempts from the field and only managed to outscore Pierce by one.

“The only way we were going to win the game is if Paul played like that,” Doc Rivers said during the postgame press conference. “He knew that. So did [the Hawks], yet he still did it. It just tells you how special he is.”

Avery Bradley, who told HOOPSADDICT.com before the game that he had knocked of his playoff jitters in game one, did a solid job filling for Rondo. The second-year guard scored 14 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. He also contributed on defense with three blocks and three steals.

On Friday, the series shifts to Boston with a completely different tone. The Celtics now have home court advantage, Rondo is set to return from his suspension, and the Hawks may have to go without Josh Smith who left Tuesday night’s game early with a sprained knee. In order for the Hawks to get back in this series Atlanta will have to take a page out of the Celtics book and overcome some major adversity.

“I told our players, ‘this is what playoff basketball is all about,’” Drew said. “It will be a chess match. It’s about adjustments. It’s about when you are on the other end of the stick—really seeing what you are made of.”

Hawks Keep Celtics at Bay

Although the Hawks claim to be ignoring the media, and all the talk of the Boston Celtics being the favorite in their first round playoff matchup, Atlanta certainly played with a chip on their shoulder in the first game of the series last night at Philips Arena.

“We have a quiet bunch,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew Said. “They won’t say much. They will never give any indication that they are upset or that they feel any disappointment.”

Atlanta let their game and their raucous fans do the talking as they climbed out to a big lead early—pushing the gap to as much as 19 in the first half—while managing to keep the Celtics at bay for the rest of the game.

“We don’t listen to the naysayers,” Joe Johnson said after the game. “The game is played out there on the court, not on paper. We are going to do whatever it takes to try to advance to the next round.”

The Celtics struggled in the first half, shooting just 36.6 percent. Garnett was an abysmal 1-of-9 from the field.

“We didn’t play like us,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “But give them credit. Defensively they were terrific.”

One thing the Celtics did do well was pressure Joe Johnson. Johnson went 3-of-15 from the field, and he failed to connect on all nine of his three-point attempts.

“I missed a bunch of wide open shots that I normally make,” Johnson said. “I’m sure Game 2 will be a lot different. I’m just glad guys like Jeff [Teague] and Josh [Smith] were able to carry us down the stretch.”

Josh Smith led the way for the Hawks, scoring 22 points and snagging a career playoff high, 18 rebounds.

“When [Smith] is playing with that type of energy, when he plays with that type of rhythm he just makes us so much better,” Drew said. “He does so much out there. Things that may not show up on the stat sheet…He just played a monster game.”

The Hawks also got a good boost from their bench as they outscored the Celtics’ reserves 17-4.

“We need those guys to be aggressive,” Johnson said. “Our bench is going to have to play a big role in this series.”

The Hawks seemed to benefit from the hot stretch they experienced at the end of the season.  Atlanta won four of their last five regular season match ups, earning them home court advantage and momentum. The effects of both were on display last night.

Game 2is set for Tuesday at 7:30 in Atlanta.

In The Scrum With Larry Drew

The Atlanta Hawks capped off a back-to-back-to-back with a victory over the streaking Utah Jazz. Somehow the Hawks managed to get the win after four overtimes Sunday, despite hosting the New Jersey Nets Friday and flying to Washington to face the Wizards Saturday. Here is what coach Drew had to say afterwards.

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Nets Still Flailing Despite Additions

Mikhail Prokhorov made some bold claims shortly after becoming majority owner of the New Jersey Nets. Despite being one of the most aggressive teams in the league in terms of pursuing trades and attempting to lure in free agents, The Nets (16-4) have little to show for the efforts.

Squandered attempts to orchestrate a trade for Dwight Howard saw the team settle with a acquiring Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers.

The Nets have lost five of their last six, including losses to other bottom feeders, the Washington Wizards, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Orleans Hornets.

Three-time all-star, Deron Williams, was visibly frustrated after the Nets’ most recent loss, which came Friday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s been a tough week,” Williams admitted. “Teams go through it. We are going through it.”

As with any young team, a lack of focus seems to be the blame. Although they are capable of pulling together a few good quarters, it is rare that the Nets play a full 48 minutes of solid hoops.

“I think our focus is there,” Gerald Green, who the Nets recently called up from the D-league, said. “Maybe not the whole entire game and I think that’s probably one of the things we need to work on. To me it just seems like we are just two or three plays from getting the victory, for these last five games.”

A lack of focus during the phase of any NBA game can be fatal—especially when it happens in the fourth quarter.

“The last couple of games we were in the game or we were up in the fourth quarter,” Green said. “It’s like we are on or two plays away from us getting the victory. I think we just have to do a better job of finishing out the quarters, finishing out the games.”

Another cause for the Nets problems is the absence of Brook Lopez. The seven-foot center has only been available for five games this season and is set to miss at least a couple more weeks.

After missing the first half of the season with a broken foot, Lopez returned only to sprain his ankle.

Coach Avery Johnson said the team is dedicated to get back to full health before placing Lopez back on the court.

“You just hope the best for the kid,” Johnson said. “We just want to get him back completely healed so we don’t have any more setbacks. We’ve had just a small snap shot of what we could be as we continue to grow and develop and our guys continue to mature.”

In Lopez’s absence, Jordan Williams, New Jersey’s second round pick out of Maryland, has continued to develop. His numbers do not jump off the page, but he has dropped eight points in the last two games.

Also, his high-energy play has left an impression on his teammates.

“He came in a little out of shape,” Deron Williams said.  “He had to work on some things and I think it has made him a lot tougher as a person and as a player. I’m definitely happy with his development.”

Jordan Williams’ game continues to develop and the 6-foot-ten, 260-pounder continues to look more comfortable as his minutes increase.

“I’m just trying to build my confidence,” Jordan Williams said. “My teammates are doing a good job of helping me with that. I’m just trying to help any way I can. Get points, get rebounds, hustle plays—whatever I can do.”

The Nets managed to end their five game losing streak with a 102-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. Deron Williams will get a chance to face-off against his former team as New Jersey is set to host the Utah Jazz Monday night.

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Atlanta Continues To Battle Injuries

Perhaps things could be worse, but the Atlanta Hawks have definitely fallen out favor with the basketball gods this season.

“Obviously no Pargo, obviously no Horford, no Vladimir Radmanovic…oh, and no Ivan [Johnson],” coach Larry Drew said as he ran down the list of Atlanta Hawks players who would not see action in Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The loss of all-star center Al Horford was without question the biggest blow to the team this season, but the team has had to deal with injuries to players at nearly every position and every role.

“Over the past years we have survived injuries,” coach Larry Drew said. “We didn’t have a lot of people out or any serious injuries, but this year—I guess what didn’t happen in the past is being made for this year.”

To make matters more complicated, the condensed schedule cuts out time that would normally be reserved for practice, which makes it much tougher for players returning from injury to get back into the swing of NBA basketball.

“When they come back they have to jump right in,” Drew said. “For guys who miss a length of time with injury, with the schedule being what it is and being compressed as it is, they have no luxury to gradually get back into it.”

Luckily for Atlanta, Josh Smith and Joe Johnson have both done their parts to help the team weather the storm.

Johnson, who has also missed several games this season due to injury, seems to be hitting a groove. Although his scoring average has taken a hit this year (19 points per game), Johnson has managed to average 25.1 ppg in the month of March. He has shot 27-50 from the three-point line and Johnson has also showed up in the clutch for the Hawks.  In the Hawks recent loss to the Boston Celtics, Johnson led a charge that brought the Hawks from 15 points down in the fourth to within one point in the waning minutes of the game.

Smith has been the most consistent member of the Hawks simply by being there, as him and Jeff Teague are the only two Hawks to have started in all 47 games. The only other Hawk to have played in every single game is Zaza Pachulia. Smith has also compiled five games where he has scored at least 20 points and collected 15 rebounds, including his 32-point, 17-rebound outburst in Wednesday’s matchup against the Cavs.

Despite their ill bill of health, the Hawks still have plenty to be encouraged about. They currently find themselves in sixth place in the Eastern Conference—two games ahead of seventh-placed Boston Celtics. Also, Drew reported that Horford was able to take a few jump shots this week, for the first time since injuring his left pectoral muscle in January.

If the Hawks continue to stay afloat and perhaps get Horford back before playoff time, who knows what they could do. Teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic should definitely be weary if matched up against a healthy Hawk team in the first round of this year’s post season.

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Warriors’ Rookies Ready When Called On

In an unorthodox year marked by a cramped schedule and a slew of injuries, the young guards of the Golden State Warriors have had to learn to expect the unexpected.

When Klay Thompson and Charles Jenkins were picked up by the Warriors in the 2011 NBA Draft, they could not have expected to have major roles in a backcourt that features one of the best shooters—Stephen Curry—and one of the best scorers—Monta Ellis—in the league.  However, Curry’s health issues have opened up opportunities for the young players to temporarily take on bigger roles.

In the case of Jenkins, he went from not expecting to play much to registering a couple of starts early on in the season. In January, Curry went down with yet another ankle injury and with Nate Robinson being very new to the team, Jenkins found himself in a position even he didn’t expect to be in.

“Did I think I was going to start? Most definitely not,” Jenkins told HOOPSADDICT.com. “We got great guards in Steph and Monta and the addition of Nate. I’ve just been trying to come in and learn.”

Jenkins’ work ethic and attentiveness has left an impression on both the veterans and coaches of the Warriors.

“He’s been ready,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. “He is a guy that shows up early, leaves late and never takes days off.”

Although Jenkins has seen his minutes fluctuate—logging just four minutes over the last four games—he said he is always prepared.

“I never know when I’m going to play and when I’m not so my mentality is stay ready and when it happens it happens,” Jenkins said.

“Jenkins is not wasting time,” Jackson said. “He asks questions, and he put himself in position for when his day comes.”

Thompson seems to be having no problem carving out a nice niche for his self on the Warriors roster. The rookie out of Washington State is averaging 7.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game in 16.7 minutes per night. The sharpshooter seems to be following in the footsteps of his teammate, Curry, as he is currently shooting 45.9 percent from the three-point line which is the seventh best mark in the league.

Thompson said the key for him is staying aggressive despite playing behind Ellis and Curry.

“I’m a scorer just like those guys,” Thompson said. “I try to be just as aggressive as them because that’s when I’m at my best—looking for my shot and creating for my teammates.”

One thing that makes Thompson’s life easier is having the green light from the coaching staff.

“Coach Jackson tells me to play my game,” Thompson said, “and it’s easier to defer to those guys because they’re such good players but you can’t do that all the time because you have to be a threat out there if you want to keep some balance on this team.”

The Warriors currently find themselves floating around the bottom of the Western Conference at 15-20, but with a wealth of young talent, they are a team that could be dangerous in the near future.

“We are really fortunate with the young fellas on this team,” Jackson said. “They love the game of basketball and they put themselves in position—when they are called upon they are ready.

Hawks Looking To Beef Up Frontcourt

The Hawks have felt the sting of the injury bug, especially in the frontcourt with both Al Horford and Jason Collins being injured. Despite that, Atlanta has managed to stay afloat and then some, but it’s only a matter of time before their lack of frontcourt depth becomes a problem.

Hawks management seems to agree and Atlanta is looking to bring in another big man very soon.

“We have a list of guys and we are tossing names around,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “We’ll probably make a decision on some guys within the next few days. Ideally, if there is a guy who can play both five and four that would be my number one choice. But if it’s just strictly a five I would embrace that as well.”

Drew added that he also has a preference for someone with a big body that can score.

NBA commissioner David Stern happened to be on hand before Wednesday night’s to give his thoughts on the Hawks ownership and he seems to think Atlanta is in good hands.

“They’ve committed to pay the luxury tax, which not many teams in our league do these days,” Stern said. “They are committed to hire personnel to demonstrate to the fans that this is a franchise worth supporting. I think they are committed to Atlanta and I’m committed to them.

With the talk of Atlanta planning to add a center who is a force on defense, coupled with Stern’s comments on the Hawks ownership’s willingness to go over the salary cap, some experts are speculating a trade could be in the cards for the Hawks. To add fuel to the fire, Orlando Magic owner Richard Devos chose last night to express that he wants Dwight Howard to stay in Orlando. Unfortunately, with Howard still seemingly frustrated and the trade deadline fast approaching, Devos might have no choice but to move the superstar center. Perhaps Howard could be making a return to his hometown.

All wild speculation aside, the Hawks seem dedicated to bolster their aching frontcourt.  Atlanta fans can expect a transaction sooner than later.

Update:

And like that, the Hawks have made their move. Thursday, Atlanta announced the signing of 15-year vet, Erick Dampier. The 6-foot-11, 265 pound center will give Atlanta the much needed size and added depth at the center position. Dampier is a a capable defender and should have an impact on the boards as well.

Catching Up With Jodie Meeks

I had a chance to talk to Jodi Meeks of the Philadelphia 76ers. We talked about returning to play in his hometown, the recent success of the 76ers and his role with the team.

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Hawks Settle Into Life Without Crawford

Last night’s game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Atlanta Hawks took on added meaning as Jamal Crawford returned to Philips arena for the first time since he and the Hawks parted ways.

Crawford was a huge part of what the Hawks did last year as he handled the ball often and took a good chunk of big shots.  Few bench players in the league can take over a game like Crawford can.

“(Crawford) can handle the ball,” Atlanta’s head coach Larry Drew said. “He is good coming off screens, he is a good one-on-one player and we just tried to put him in those situations as much as possible.”

Before the game, Drew touched on what Crawford brought to the Hawks and how things have changed in his absence.

“The way our team is structured now with the guys who come off the bench, these guys kind of get theirs within what we do,” Drew said. “Where as before, everybody knew when Jamal got in the game we ran plays specifically for him.”

This year, the Hawks have a completely different style of play coming off of the bench with a mix of guys who can score in the flow of the offense but are far less aggressive than Crawford. With the fiasco that was this offseason and a jam-packed regular season, teams around the league have had to adjust to the new additions and losses to their rosters on the fly.

Luckily for the Hawks, the new additions to the team finally seem to be on the same page as the players that have been on the roster.

“It really feels like these guys are starting to get a good feel for each other,” Drew said after the Hawks 92-89 victory over the Trail Blazers. “In this home stand, I think our guys did a really good job of meshing together.”

The increase in chemistry couldn’t have come at a better time as the Hawks currently find themselves on a four game winning streak despite the recent Al Horford injury.

Josh Smith is another big reason the Hawks have been able to run off four straight. With the exception of the Minnesota game, Smith has looked spectacular during the Hawks current run.  His 30 point, 13 rebound outburst against the Charlotte Bobcats sparked Atlanta’s streak.

Atlanta will try to keep things rolling Friday when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers.

Horford Injury May Sting Hawks

In a condensed season with games piled on top of each other, every body on the roster counts and the Atlanta Hawks are about learn this lesson the hard way as all-star forward Al Horford is expected to miss a large chunk of time.

Thursday the Hawks announced that Horford’s torn pectoral muscle will most likely require surgery and a three to four month layoff.

Although Horford has not had a stellar year, the Hawks will undoubtedly miss his production. Horford has started in all 11 of the games he has appeared in averaging 12.4 points, seven rebounds and 31.6 minutes per contest.

Atlanta has showed depth this season with at least seven Hawks scoring seven points or more per game. Unfortunately for the Hawks, most of their depth is found in the backcourt.

Centers Zaza Pachulia and Jason Collins will probably see more action but Collins so far has logged an underwhelming 28 minutes the entire season.

The one bright side (if you would call it that) is that Horford is completely under-utilized. You would be hard-pressed to find an all-star that gets fewer touches than Horford, so his absence won’t completely change what the Hawks try to do on offense.  Despite having practically no plays ran for him, Horford makes the most of his opportunities, as his 55.3 percent shooting form the field is a team best.

The biggest part of Horford’s game the Hawks will miss is his mid-range shooting. Jeff Teague and company will quickly to discover that driving lanes are much tighter without Hordford their to suck opposing bigs out.

This will probably be the most time Horford has ever missed in a season as he has played at least 77 games three of his four seasons in the NBA.

Being that this is the first time the Hawks will be without Hordford for a large chunk of the season, it is hard to gauge how much the Hawks will miss their all-star big man. But considering that the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently holding down the eight best spot in the Eastern Conference, it’s not crazy to think that the Hawks could still make a playoff run.

The Hawks looked sharp in their first game without their big man on their way to 111-81 win over the Charlotte Bobcats (2-10).

Tonight’s game against the Minessota Timberwolves will prove to be a bigger test. Kevin Love, second in the league in rebounds (14.7) and sixth in scoring (24.5), will be a tough cover for a shorthanded Hawks front-court.

In The Scrum With Larry Drew

Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew talks about the Hawks’ disappointing, triple overtime loss to a LeBron and D Wade-less Miami Heat team.

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Hawks Sending Mixed Signals

Fresh into a new season, there are still plenty of teams that have lots of questions to answer and the Atlanta Hawks (3-0) are no exception.

Atlanta opened the season by dominating the New Jersey Nets (106-70), then blowing out the Washington Wizards (101-83) but last night they struggled to put the Nets away (105-98), yet they still escaped with an untarnished record. The mixed results against sub-par teams makes it difficult to judge just how good this Hawks team is.

The Hawks looked picture perfect in their season opener in New Jersey but a few adjustments made Friday night’s contest a much more competitive affair.  The first go around Atlanta held New Jersey to an abysmal 31 percent shooting from the field and 20.8 percent from deep. Last night, however, the Nets connected on 46.3 percent of their shots from the field while shooting 45 percent from distance.

“(New Jersey) played really well tonight,” Jeff Teague said. “Guys were making shots for them. The first game they weren’t making shots and it made our defense look great. Tonight we played well but I think we want to do a little bit better on the defensive end.”

Al Horford said he is just happy that they were able to come out victorious.

“It was all about getting the win,” he said. “It’s going to be like that this season where teams that you are supposed to beat come out and they will beat you. Anybody can beat you if you don’t play your game.”

Things we’ll get more interesting over the next week as the Hawks will travel to Houston, Miami and Chicago before returning to Atlanta to take on the Heat for a second time, all within the span of six days.

“We have three very tough opponents coming up,” head coach Larry Drew said. ”But we are going to take them one at a time.  We are going out on the road now to play some teams that are certainly going to be there when the smoke clears at the end od the regular season. So we have our hands full but we aren’t going to look past anybody.

The Hawks bench has played well and last night was no exception.

“I got some really good minutes from (Tracy McGrady),” Drew said. “I thought Willie Green played well, I thought Zaza (Pachulia) played well and I thought Vladimir (Radmanovic) did a good job.”

Solid bench play will be key in this condensed season, especially now, as the Hawks approach a patch of tough road games.

Catching Up With Nick Young

I had a chance to sit down with Nick Young before Wednesday night’s Wizards vs. Hawks game. We talked about his performance in the Wizards season opener, his evolution as a scorer, the Wizards’ current roster and–last but not least–his hair.

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Walker Gears Up For His Rookie Season

In a non-traditional season, many of the leagues rookies are having to learn the game on the fly and Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker is no exception, but the former UConn star is working hard to get acclimated to the league.

“It’s a different ball game,” Walker told HOOPSADDICT.com. “Guys are bigger, faster and stronger. We have the 24-second shot clock, do things are just moving a little faster for me.”

Walker didn’t look amazing in his first preseason game, but he did show the willingness to win that made him such an amazing college player. Despite connecting on only four of his 13 shots, Walker led all scorers with 18 points and he played a big part in helping Charlotte maintain the lead in the fourth quarter to squeak out a 79-77 victory.

The most impressive part of Walker’s game was his ability to get to the free throw line as he did most of his damage from the charity stripe, connecting on nine of 11 attempts.

In his second game, Walker still struggled from the field (4-11) but still showed flashes of his athleticism.

The rookie admitted he will take the short preseason as a learning experience.

“I feel good out there,” Walker said. “It’s a quick learning process for me. I just have to take this one and learn from it. All I can do is try my best and continue to get better.”

One adjustment Walker will have to face is going from being one of the biggest stars in college basketball to coming off the bench in Charlotte. Although he will be serving as D.J. Augustin’s back up, Walker seems humble and is eager to help the franchise anyway he can.

“I’m coming off the bench so I pretty much know my role,” Walker said “I’m going to score when I can, bring energy and just play hard. That’s really what I have to do to help this team. “

It’s obvious that Walker has the physical tools to be a solid NBA player. With a decent mid-range jump shot and excellent speed driving to hole, Walker will have no problem scoring. His leadership skills might also come in handy and Walker appears to have the mindset to take his game to the next level.

“I have to get better at making everyone around me better, and making open shots when I can, and be a better decision maker,” Walker said. “I think if I work on those things I’ll be pretty good.”

Walker and the Bobcats will get their first taste of NBA action against the Milwaukee Bucks this Monday.