NBA

Bobcats encouraged by Kemba Walker's progress

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)

Bobcats coach Paul Silas spent the better part of a week preaching to Kemba Walker the importance of passing first, shooting second.

Apparently Walker's a pretty good listener.

In just his fourth start at point guard Walker handed out 11 assists en route to his first career triple-double in Charlotte's 102-99 loss Saturday night to the Washington Wizards. It was a remarkable improvement over Walker's first three starts, in which he had just eight assists combined.

Walker also scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

''Let me tell you, it was just wonderful,'' Silas said. ''I didn't know that he could pass the ball that well or even see guys that were open like that. He hadn't done it before, but he's learning. To get a triple-double after 21 games, to me, that's just out of this world.

''I just can't think of enough good things to say about him and how well he's going to do in the future.''

Silas has been around the league long enough to know that one game doesn't make or break a player.

As promising as Walker's breakout game was, he'd like to see the rookie the consistently take charge.

The No. 9 overall pick in the draft out of Connecticut will get the chance to do that over the next four games with regular starting point guard D.J. Augustin already ruled out because of inflammation in his right toe.

The Bobcats will look to snap an eight-game losing streak Tuesday night when they begin a four-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers.

''Honestly, I'm still trying to learn this game,'' Walker said. ''I'm a very unselfish player. I don't mind passing the ball at all. Coach told me he wanted me to get guys the ball and he showed me on film a lot of the opportunities that I have to get to the basket and distribute.''

Walker admittedly struggled during his first three starts.

Silas urged him both publically and privately to do a better job of distributing the ball, hoping to get the point across.

''We talked to him about what was needed and we talked to him about how to distribute first and score second,'' Silas said.

They watched hours of tape together.

It culminated in what Walker said was probably his best game, but he downplayed the effort by noting his team's NBA-worst 3-18 record.

''I just want to win, whether that means getting assists or rebounds,'' Walker said.

He said he is most comfortable playing the point guard position.

''I've been playing it my whole life,'' Walker said. ''I love playing point guard. But if I had to be out there playing the two spot it doesn't matter. I'm still going to be doing the same thing. I'm still going to push the ball and I'm still going to run some plays - just maybe not as much.''

The Bobcats' long-term future at point guard looks good. Augustin will be a restricted free agent next year, but has improved enough to where it would be hard to fathom the team not keeping him.

Walker clearly will be a big part and it doesn't hurt having owner Michael Jordan as one of his biggest fans.

For now, Walker is just trying to make his mark.

On Tuesday night, he'll face off against one his heroes, Kobe Bryant. The Lakers star would make an annual visit to Rice High School in The Bronx, where Walker first gained national recognition.

''Kobe sponsored my high school, so once a year he would come down and talk to us,'' Walker said. ''So I've been around Kobe for a while. But to finally be able to play against him in the NBA is going to be exciting. He's one of the best players in the world. I'm really looking forward to it.''

Notes: Silas said guard Reggie Williams and forwards Gerald Henderson and D.J. White will be available for the Lakers game. Williams, a 3-point shooting specialist, hasn't played all season but returned to practice Monday and was deemed ready to play. The return of those three players helps, but the Bobcats remain without two key starters in Augustin and Corey Maggette.

Tagged: Lakers, Kobe Bryant, Hornets, D.J. Augustin

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