Celtics Lead

Kemba Building Chemistry at World Cup


Fans observing US dominance in international basketball universally expect and rarely discuss it. Unless that is, the team loses. A shocking exhibition loss to Australia was the team’s first since 2006. The, “we only care about the Olympics” excuse script-writers quickly pulled out the notebooks. But in this week’s World Cup group games, new Celtic Kemba Walker helped ensure other countries wouldn’t reroute the numbing march towards gold from Shenhai.

Correct Mentality

International US teams consist of whiny malcontents, some argue. Wrong! In training camp, Walker clarified the team, “gotta be locked in, listening,” if it wants to win. Also, he noted that “enthusiasm, integrity is really high,” especially for sleepy August.

In another interview, he explained it never came across his mind not to play in the tournament, desiring to play with “a lot of hungry guys.” (Including Boston teammates Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown). Boston’s goal, according to Walker, is to, “get better, continue to work hard every day.”

His words made for great diplomacy. But would his play back them up?

Opening Rout

Sunday against the Czech Republic, the US couldn’t afford a quick 0-1 group stage start. Unfortunately, the Americans began with too much isolation hero ball. The game quickly shifted, however, when the Czechs foolishly switched to zone. The US eviscerated the Europeans inside with a 44-28 paint advantage. However, Walker contributed his share with wicked step-backs (note especially 1:52 and 3:09).

His 13 points and 4 assists led his team to an important 88-67 triumph. However, the second game frightened a country wrongfully viewed as basketball-invincible.

Thunder Against Turks

The US had a chance to clinch a spot in round two with a win over Turkey Tuesday. Walker certainly contributed, scoring another 14 points with 6 rebounds and 7 assists. In the process, he validated Gregg Popovich’s buzzer-beating substitution with an impressive 3/8th court heave.

Still, the Americans would have suffered a heartbreaking loss were it not for a last-second Turk foul and two Tatum free throws. In overtime, Walker’s three, drawn charge, and two tied the match (2:20).

After the victory, the media requested his recollection when down 5 in OT. Walker intelligently observed, “I’m a competitor; I want to be the one to step up for my teammates” (comments begin at 3:05).

Up next, the US plays two second-round matches Saturday and Monday.  And the Americans appear poised to advance further with Walker’s focus. If his dedication to the red, white and blue transfers into green, those who didn’t have time for patriotism won’t have time to catch up to Boston either.


About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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