Mama said there’d be days like this.
Kemba Walker rose up with two seconds left in the Boston Celtics one point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and let go a shot he’s hit hundreds, if not thousands of times in his life. And just like 10 other shots he took in this game, this one missed.
“I thought I had a good look, but I struggled all game shooting the basketball,” Walker said after the game. “I would have loved to make some shots tonight. It was a struggle obviously. I would have loved to help my teammates more tonight, but it didn’t go that way. I have to keep working, just find myself a little bit, find my rhythm, find my spots.”
Walker’s search for a rhythm is a tough one this season. He’s only played in six games so far this season after missing the first 12 to strengthen his left knee. He returned to a team that suddenly boasts two likely All-Stars and, possibly, two All-NBA players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. which was not the case when he signed his contract with Boston. Suddenly, Walker is going from main scoring threat to third option.
“Those two guys are special talents and we need them to be great every night. I’m really the one that has to figure it out,” Walker said after the team’s Friday practice. “Those two guys, they’re good. I’ll figure it out. We want those two guys to be super aggressive and leading us. I’ll figure it out for sure.”
On a night where both of those guys were, indeed, great, Walker was unable to figure out how to get his shots to fall, finishing with only four points on 1-for-12 shooting.
“It’s more mental than anything I think,” Walker admitted. “Tonight I got frustrated at myself and it kind of put myself in a bad place. I’m not even a player like that to really get frustrated. I’m more smiling and I wasn’t that tonight. I got into my own head and mentally I hurt myself and I can’t do that for this team.”
Walker may have hurt himself, but he had help.
“They paid a lot of attention to Kemba,” Brad Stevens said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself to be really good. And I think that tonight they put a lot of attention on him, they had a huge presence on him, and it just wasn’t his night. We riding Kemba. He’s a really good player who really cares about his team and really wants to be a part of something special with guys that are going to give for each other. And sometimes it’s not your night. But more often than not, it is his night. And we believe strongly in that.”
The timing was unfortunate for Walker. A national TV game between the Celtics and Lakers is not the ideal time to have one of your worst shooting nights. Maybe it was the added strain of the rivalry, the spotlight of the national TV game, or the fact that just one more made shot could have changed the result. Whatever it was, little was going his way.
But the NBA demands players have short memories, and this February schedule will beat people down if they can’t move on because it’s just a relentless mess of game after game.
“I’m a little disappointed in myself personally. But I’ve been around for a minute now. This ain’t the first time I’ve shot the ball bad, to be honest,” Walker said. “Just gotta look past it. I have no choice, man, but I would have loved to have shot the ball better, but unfortunately I didn’t. I’ll take it on the chin. I understand I can be better. I’ll continue to work and find my rhythm and be better for this team.”