Kemba’s 3s, Parker’s in­flu­ence pay­ing off for Hor­nets

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY RICK BONNELL rbon­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

The Char­lotte Hor­nets didn’t prac­tice Thurs­day. Don’t mis­take that for not work­ing, not im­prov­ing.

Fac­ing three games in four days, coach James Bor­rego elected to have a team meet­ing to re­view video of Wed­nes­day’s loss to the Mil­wau­kee Bucks, rather than run­ning around the prac­tice gym. But it was the un­sched­uled meet­ing af­ter that meet­ing that was per­haps the most con­struc­tive.

For­ward Nic Ba­tum shared with the Ob­server, fol­low­ing Fri­day’s 120-88 blowout of the Magic, that he, Kemba Walker and Tony Parker stuck around af­ter the for­mal team meet­ing to dis­cuss nu­ance with Bor­rego. Those three play­ers are most re­spon­si­ble for the Hor­nets’ of­fense run­ning smoothly.

“We had video yes­ter­day as a team, and af­ter that Kemba, T.P. and me stayed an­other hour. We watched the last 12 min­utes (against the Bucks) with coach,” Ba­tum told the Ob­server Fri­day night.

“Ev­ery­thing is new. The pre­sea­son is dif­fer­ent; (Wed­nes­day) was re­ally our first game. So we talked a lot. The two point guards and I (cre­ate) a lot. We had to talk about what to do in close games.”

While it was mostly strate­gic, it was also about tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, Ba­tum said, as in Parker hold­ing Walker and Ba­tum ac­count­able for set­ting a tone. Bor­rego said post-game Wed­nes­day that the starters weren’t pre­pared phys­i­cally or men­tally.

“That was a good meet­ing!” Ba­tum said. “Kemba and I talked and then T.P. talked to us. T.P. told Kemba and me, ‘You have to show the way!’”

Show, they did. Ba­tum fin­ished the first quar­ter with eight points, four re­bounds and two

as­sists. Walker didn’t need to even play in the fourth quar­ter to be spec­tac­u­lar, fin­ish­ing with 26 points and five as­sists in 27 min­utes.

RECORD PER­FOR­MANCE

Walker has as­sem­bled a strik­ing two-game start to this sea­son: He has scored 67 points in 66 min­utes, shoot­ing 23-of-46 from the field. The 12 3-point­ers he’s made tie an NBA record for most 3s by a player in the first two games of his sea­son, set by Ray Allen in 2001.

It’s neat that Walker is in the record book, neater still, he said, that he joins Allen, who pre­ceded him as one of Con­necti­cut bas­ket­ball’s greats.

“It is cool - not only be­cause he’s one of the great­est 3-point shoot­ers to play in this game, but be­cause he played at the same school,” Walker said. “I know Ray per­son­ally, of course. I know his work ethic. To be (men­tioned in) the same breath as him is un­real.”

It’s not just what Walker is do­ing, it’s how he’s do­ing it. Bor­rego has asked him to ad­just a bit by play­ing off the ball more with the in­ten­tion of mak­ing the Hor­nets’ of­fense more di­verse and less pre­dictable. A coach never re­ally knows how a team’s top player will re­act to chang­ing his role, par­tic­u­larly in Bor­rego’s sit­u­a­tion show­ing up from the San An­to­nio Spurs.

To Walker, it’s not a sacri­fice, it’s light­en­ing his load and ex­plor­ing other op­por­tu­ni­ties. Where be­fore he was con­stantly the ball-han­dler in high pick-and-rolls, now he’s part of the of­fense some com­ing off screens and base­line ac­tions with­out the ball.

“It gives other guys con­fi­dence and op­por­tu­ni­ties to do other things, and it gives me a break some­times,” Walker said. “It makes teams guard me dif­fer­ent. Do things where Nic is han­dling or J (Jeremy) Lamb is han­dling.

“We need other guys; I can’t be the one ev­ery night.”

It’s im­por­tant Walker doesn’t just un­der­stand this, he has cod­i­fied it with his ac­tions. The bal­anc­ing act is for Walker to suc­ceed do­ing a lit­tle less, oth­ers must do a lit­tle more.

‘FA­THER FIG­URE’

Bor­rego called 18-year vet­eran Parker a “fa­ther fig­ure” the other day. He was re­fer­ring specif­i­cally to Parker’s on-court role with the sec­ond unit, but the de­scrip­tion seems to have a broader mean­ing with this team’s psy­che.

Parker won four cham­pi­onships with the Spurs. He can be a great trans­la­tor of what Bor­rego wants the Hor­nets to do and also isn’t shy about prod­ding his new team­mates.

“We needed that vet in the locker room,” Ba­tum said of fel­low French­man Parker. “That’s what we re­ally missed the last two years: a guy in the locker room who will go at every­one.”

Ap­par­ently, a ver­sion of that hap­pened Thurs­day and the re­sult was a 32point road vic­tory on Fri­day.

The “T.P. Ef­fect” won’t be that pro­found ev­ery game, but if this was an in­di­ca­tion, Parker could come in mighty handy.

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