UConn in the NBA: Pistons slowing, Kemba surging

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

A week off from writing this piece has given me a greater appreciation for our professional basketball league. It’s amazing to see the highest caliber athletes go toe-to-toe every night, and for at least this year, that included the night of the All-Star game. For years, fans, media members, coaches and owners have complained about the lack of defense and effort that goes into the All-Star game—but not this year. This year’s game was highly contested until the very end, and two former Huskies got to participate in the event. Let’s catch up on how All-Star weekend went, and how our Huskies and their teams are looking as we enter the closing stretch of the season.

Andre Drummond:

The Pistons are still in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, and Drummond is still putting up very impressive individual numbers. Drummond is averaging 15.1 points, 15.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. The rebounding numbers are just absurd, as the big man is grabbing more rebounds per game than any player has in more than 20 years. Drummond competed in the All-Star game last Sunday as well, playing 18 minutes and scoring 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting. The problem right now for Drummond happens to be his team and the fact that it is only ninth in the East. The team started out hot after the trade for Blake Griffin but has lost five of its last six. My money is still on Detroit being a playoff team come April, but if that’s going to happen, Drummond and company will have to right the ship soon.

Kemba Walker:

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m 100 percent responsible for Walker’s resurgence. The point guard started the season strong, then dipped toward the middle, but the couple weeks before the All-Star break and the week after have shown that he’s back to being the old Walker we all know and love. He is averaging 22.9 points, 5.8 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and only 2.2 turnovers per game. Walker participated in the All-Star game as well, putting up 11 points in 14 minutes. Walker’s problem at the moment is similar to Drummond’s; his team is 10th in the Eastern Conference, and a playoff berth is not a lock. The difference is that the Hornets are hot right now, and could even surpass the Pistons in the standings soon. The Hornets have won four straight games, with their last win coming against the Pistons. If the Hornets continue this streak, they could give Detroit some tough competition for the last playoff spot.

Jeremy Lamb:

Lamb was not part of All-Star festivities last weekend, but he got to enjoy a week off from basketball and hopefully rejuvenate himself for the final stretch of the season. The Hornets will need Lamb to keep contributing if they hope to sneak into the playoffs, and considering his performance earlier in the season, that isn’t too much to ask. Lamb is averaging 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, but we know he is capable of more. Almost all of Lamb’s stats were higher earlier in the season when he was getting more minutes. It is up to Lamb to keep producing the best he can with high efficiency to give the Hornets the best chance they have at playing postseason basketball this year.

Shabazz Napier:

Napier has been very solid off the bench for the Trail Blazers this season, and if they remain in the playoff picture, it will be interesting to see what he can provide in the postseason. The former Husky is averaging per game 9.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 21.2 minutes. Rotations shorten in the playoffs and starters eat up more minutes, but having a backup like Napier could give Damian Lillard more time to rest and give Portland a better chance to win. If Napier can hold his own against a slew of elite Western Conference point guards for even 15 minutes every game, the Blazers will be in a much greater position for success.

Rudy Gay:

Gay is finally back on the basketball court and played both games for the Spurs following the All-Star break, with San Antonio picking up one win and one loss. Gay only tallied nine total points between those two games, but his presence on the court is what matters for a team that may not have their best player, Kawhi Leonard, for the rest of the season. Availability makes Gay a hot commodity for the Spurs now, because with Leonard out, Gay remains the second leading scorer on this team with 11.1 points per game. Gay’s role will increase once the playoffs come around, but for now head coach Gregg Popovich must just be happy to have another body to play.


Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at zac.lane@uconn.edu.