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Kemba Walker stats: 16 points, 2 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 22 minutes
Bismack Biyombo stats: 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 17 minutes
Byron Mullens stats: 20 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 29 minutes
Going 7-59 can be pretty demoralizing. Even on the face of Kemba Walker, someone who always smiled, the crushing blows of losing seemed to phase him by the end of the season. Byron Mullens, given his first real chance to play meaningful minutes on a team looked dejected by losing, and Bismack was outwardly frustrated by his play, and with how poorly the team played together.
But, for at least one night in Las Vegas, Charlotte's own "Big Three" (that's a joke, for the record) looked happy to be there. They looked re-energized. They looked downright excited.
Kemba's seven assists is an encouraging number, even though he's still taking shots he shouldn't take. At least he's beginning to realize that he's a point guard and not a shooting guard, and that it's his job to create for other players, which he did tonight. He also had a couple of seriously fantastic drives to the rim, displaying just how good of a ball-handler Kemba is.
Bismack was as physical as ever, and personally I thought he had a couple of questionable calls against him, but I'm obviously biased and not a referee. Still, he played well in the paint, his defense was solid, and he actually flashed a few signs of offensive capabilities. Some post-up hook shots, a few put-backs... it was quite encouraging.
Once Mullens got the three-point bug out of his system (he went 2-7 from three point land), Mullens settled into a decent groove. He is not a physical player, and at 7 feet, you'd expect a few more rebounds out of him, but he is what he is. He has a good shot, and aside from the cold streak to start the game, it was on full display for about 20 minutes of his on-court time. He also managed to get into the paint for a few put backs. Byron is turning into a Brook Lopez type of center—a good scorer, but not a great physical presence. He still had a great first game.
The long and short of it is, these three players, who by season's end looked dejected and ashamed, looked happy and excited right from the start. They loved being on the floor, they played well, and they have all made improvements. There's still work to do, but seeing them excited is a great sign.