Author: Kurt Helin

Kemba Walker, Nikola Vucevic

Kemba Walker goes off for career high 42 for Hornets (VIDEO)

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Kemba Walker is quick with penetration into the paint, but when his jumper is falling too he is very difficult to stop. Just ask the Orlando Magic.

Walker dropped 42 points on Orlando Saturday night, 35 of those in the second half as he pretty much single-handedly kept the Hornets in the game. He was only 6-of-15 shooting in the paint but the jumper was falling — 4-of-5 from the midrange and 5-of-12 from three. He was getting open looks, as 18 of his shots were uncontested. He was attacking and that meant he got to the line nine times as well. Plus he dished out seven assists. It was a tour de force.

And it didn’t matter. The Hornets defense was bad and couldn’t get a stop, Nikola Vucevic had 22 points, and the Magic won 102-94.

Kevin Garnett blows in David West’s ear, West retaliates and gets technical (VIDEO)

Brooklyn Nets V Detroit Pistons
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Kevin Garnett will do anything to get in the head of an opponent… but imitate Lance Stephenson?

Yup. And it worked.

During the first half of Indiana’s visit to Brooklyn, Garnett blew in the ear of Pacers’ veteran David West, who took a little offense at that and pushed KG. The referees blew the whistle and hit West with a technical for the shove.

Of course, then Pacer Lance Stephenson became a meme after he blew in LeBron James’ ear during the playoffs last season. It didn’t really bother LeBron, and West moved on from this pretty quickly. But I somehow doubt KG will become a meme.

This just fits with Garnett’s personality.

John Wall with another 360 layup (VIDEO)

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards
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Another game, another 360 layup from John Wall.

John Wall has been putting on a show all season — scoring 18 points and dishing out 10.4 assists a game — and he’s added the 360 layup to the arsenal. Bradley Beal makes a steal to start this play in transition and Wall finished it in spectacular fashion.

Behind Wall and Paul Pierce, the Wizards had little trouble with the Celtics and picked up a comfortable win.

Hornets’ coach explains why Noah Vonleh barely sees the court

2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot
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Timing is everything.

And to hear Charlotte Hornet’s coach Steve Clifford talk, Noah Vonleh’s timing was all bad with the sports hernia injury that kept him out of training camp. Which is why right now he barely sees the court. The rookie, ninth overall pick of the Hornets in the last draft, played seven minutes of garbage time against Oklahoma City Friday night, which brings him to a total of 32 minutes played this season in four games.

Now that he’s healthy why is Vonleh not getting time on the court and some in-game development? Clifford laid it out for Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“It’s the speed of the game: To play consistent, regular minutes you have to have a comfort level with how the NBA game is played,” Clifford said. “Unfortunately once the season starts you only have certain stretches of the year where you can practice a lot.

“He’s a 19-year-old who missed all of September, when the foundation was put in, and all of October and is now playing catch-up. The thing that gives him a chance is he’s very gifted and a great worker. But it would be tough for anybody to catch up quickly after missing his rookie preseason.”

Vonleh was always seen as a bit of a project — he’s got size and athleticism and showed shooting range in college, but he struggled to bring that shot to the next level (for example, he shot just 28.4 percent overall and 12.5 percent from three in the Las Vegas Summer League). At the time Hornets Summer League coach Patrick Ewing told PBT that Vonleh needed to get stronger, needed to show more consistent effort, and needed to be a beast on the boards to get some minutes when the games count. He hasn’t shown enough of that to the staff so far, apparently.

But if the 10-20 Hornets continue to struggle and fall out of the playoff picture in the East, maybe it will become time to just play the kid and go with some trial by fire.

Kobe Bryant listed as “probable,” likely to play Sunday vs. Suns

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings
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Kobe Bryant isn’t the kind of player who wants to be on a maintenance program — reduced minutes and some nights off — but at age 36 coming off two major surgeries his body is telling him he needs one. After shooting 29 percent over five games and not having any lift in his legs, Byron Scott gave Kobe three games off in a row — including him sitting on Christmas Day vs. the Bulls. One nobody expected him to skip.

Apparently that’s enough. He should be back in the lineup come Sunday when the Lakers take on the Suns, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

We’ll see if Scott keeps Kobe’s minutes closer to 30 than the 35 he was playing.

The Lakers won their first game without Kobe against the Warriors before dropping their next two — they got crushed by the Bulls then lost a closer one to Dallas.

The Lakers are not better without Bryant, but they are less predictable on offense. And if you’re predictable you’re defendable. If Kobe is pounding the ball out on the wing or in the post in an isolation set — whether or not Scott drew it up as an iso play — the other team knows what is coming next. The Lakers offense has looked better when Kobe is doubled because he makes the right pass out of that and hits open teammates (and most of his teammates need to be open to shoot a high percentage). But if he’s single-covered and is hunting for his shot first, you can bet he’s not going to hit a crazy efficient percentage and you can keep everyone else in check.

We’ll see if and how that changes with a rested Kobe.