There was a collective groan on Saturday night when Kemba Walker hit the ground with a left ankle sprain after he landed awkwardly on Chris Bosh’s foot. So far in his career, Walker has established himself as a remarkably durable player. Which makes the injury a shame not only because he’s been playing very well this season but also because he had yet to miss a game in his entire career. At 190 games, he held the second longest streak of consecutive games in franchise history following Boris Diaw’s streak of 245 games.
Fortunately, he’s only out for 10-14 days and knowing his desire to be on the court it could possibly be even sooner but the timing probably isn’t ideal. The Charlotte Bobcats currently sit in the 8th seed of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and is effectively tied with Detroit, which has one less win and one less loss, leading to a slightly lower winning percentage. Plus there’s the (slight) possibility that at some point Cleveland and New York develop some kind of identity and string a few wins together but that keeps looking more and more laughable.
It doesn’t help much either that the next two weeks feature mostly winnable games for the Bobcats: at New York, at Denver, at the Lakers, at Phoenix and a one game homestead in the midst against Chicago which eventually has to accept that management is trying really hard to get them to lose. But it seems that as long as Tom Thibodeau maintains the one-fingered salute to the front office it may sustain the Bulls in the wins column like a modern day version of Moses and the Amalekites.
While it may be strange to see the Bobcats without Walker, they’ve gone 2-0 without him, so it seems Bobcats fans may not have too much to worry about. Not only have they won both game,s but they were over good teams too, beating the Clippers minus Chris Paul and the Toronto Raptors – another team that hasn’t accepted the fact that management wants them to lose.
Al Jefferson has picked up his scoring recently going for 24/10 tonight against the Clippers and was nearly Nightline status with a 22/19 line on Monday against the Raptors. Ramon Sessions’ play has picked up recently (still trying to figure out how he dunked on Lebron), even before Kemba went down, which is extremely fortunate for the Bobcats. He’s handled the offense respectably, going for 23 points and hitting some clutch free throws against the Raptors and dishing out 8 assists against the Clippers.
Looking at the stats it seems too that there isn’t too much of a drop off in terms of team production between Walker and Sessions. Of course there also hadn’t been any games prior to his injury where Walker hadn’t played, so there isn’t a whole lot of data to look at in terms of Sessions playing with the starting lineup. The Bobcats also currently have the 7th best defense in the league with a Defensive Rating of 100.8, per NBA.com. So while Walker is obviously more athletic than Sessions, the system in place is one that has been successful so far and it helps to have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back.
With Walker out it also opens up the offense a little bit more. That’s not to say he’s a gigantic ball hog but it means everyone has to get a little more involved. Josh “McBob” McRoberts is a great passer but isn’t generally an offensive weapon but he’ll get to see the ball with Walker out. So far in both games he’s dished out more assists than his season average. This helps the offense too in that it spreads everyone out creating better lanes for Sessions to work off ball and drive where he’s been the 4th best player in terms of points scored on the season, per NBA.com. It helps too that like Sessions, McRoberts had been heating up prior to the injury and has now scored in double digits for five straight games.
It’s a different look for the Bobcats and it’s encouraging to see them winning without Walker. Charlotte isn’t better without him but hopefully these next few games will be beneficial for the rest of the team to see what they’re capable of without their top playmaker. At the very least it will stretch them into roles they haven’t seen yet with this team.