160331_endorsements_kemba_08

Sekou Smith, NBA.com

http://www.nba.com/2016/news/features/sekou_smith/03/18/kia-race-to-the-mvp-kemba-walker-pushing-hornets-to-new-heights-in-playoff-chase/

Kemba Walker’s timing is impeccable. The Charlotte Hornets’ shifty point guard is doing what he’s always done this time of year, making moves in March. He did it in college, rising to the magnitude of the moment with his Connecticut Huskies in March of 2011. That’s when he led the Huskies to five wins in five days to capture the Big East tournament title and then kept that flow going in the NCAA Tournament, capturing both a national championship and most outstanding player honors. Walker is working his March magic for the Hornets right now. The Hornets have won 15 of their last 18 games, sit 10 games above .500 and are locked into an intense battle with Atlanta, Boston and Miami in the chase for a top-­four playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. “It’s fun now,” Walker said after scoring 13 of his 21 points in a second quarter surge to help the Hornets rally from a 15­point deficit to beat the Heat 109­106. “It’s a race. It’s a battle.” The Hornets, Heat and Celtics have identical 39­29 records today, with positions changing daily. The Celtics and Heat own the tiebreaker over the Hornets, but it might not matter if the Hornets keep grinding the way they have recently.

Four of their final 14 games will come against Eastern Conference bottom feeders Brooklyn and Philadelphia. With Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams playing their roles to perfection and Jeremy Lin, Jeremy Lamb and Al Jefferson providing a huge boost off the bench, Walker has the ideal supporting cast to push the Hornets into the conference elite. Walker has turned it on this month, his favorite month, averaging 26.2 points on 49 percent shooting (and 46 percent from 3­point range), 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds. The Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Walker led the Hornets to a 4­0 mark averaging 27.8 points, 6.8 assists and five rebounds, scoring 34 points in a March 7 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and 35 in a March 9 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. He knocked down 51.6 percent (16­for­31) of his shots from 3­point range, showing off his much improved stroke from deep that complements his always formidable dribble-­drive and pull­up game. “He’s rocking right now, absolutely rocking,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “Everybody talks about how Damian Lillard got snubbed for the All­-Star Game, and he did, but Kemba was just as deserving based on the way he’s played this season. He’s been that good.”

This week’s Top 10 in the Kia Race to the MVP:

#10 Kemba Walker

While you’ve spent this season paying attention to point guards like Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Damian Lillard and others, Walker has put together an All­-Star worthy season without any fanfare. Walker has fueled the Hornets’ rise this season, scoring and facilitating with the best of them. He’s averaging a career-­best 21.4 points this season and has the Hornets in the hunt for a top-­four spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. Walker has simply played like a man on a mission all season, but has been extra special this month (26.2 points, 49.1 percent shooting, 45.9 percent on 3-pointers, 6.5 assists and 5.4 rebounds)