Kemba Walker

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Kenny Smith launches virtual basketball camp featuring NBA and WNBA stars

Two-time NBA champion and TNT analyst Kenny Smith is launching Jet Academy, a virtual basketball camp staffed by the highest-level hoopers in the world to help boys and girls train their game while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was sitting at home and social distancing and quarantine, and my kids typically go to basketball camps,” Smith told Jason Goff on the latest Bulls Talk Podcast. “They can’t go to camps anymore, I can’t do my basketball camp in North Carolina, I had 700 kids. And I just noticed it was a need in the world that was going on, and I said I’m going to create — and I created — the first virtual basketball camp for kids and adults and anybody who plays the game, virtually. And you can do it from anywhere, any time, on any device, with anyone.”

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As for the instructors? Kemba Walker, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Victor Oladipo, Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Trae Young will all lead or co-lead training sessions. Those seven players account for 35 All-Star appearances and two MVP awards. 

Smith was clear that his intention isn’t to replace traditional trainers, but he believes those that have achieved greatness at the highest level will have special perspective to offer.

“I was talking to Kemba, I was like, ‘OK, Kemba, so this is what we need to do in the camp’ and he’s like, ‘OK, what are the drills you want to do?’” Smith said on the podcast. “I said, ‘No, no, no. Trae, Kemba, I want you to do the drills that you do to get ready. I want to see how you got your jumper like that. That’s what I would want to see. ‘Kemba, show me the pullback.’ He said, ‘Alright, I’ll show you the pullback.’ I said, ‘No, but then you gotta tell us why you use it and when you use it.’ That’s what a trainer at times can’t give you.”

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The camp tips off July 20 and will feature live, daily, two-hour video sessions with instructors that campers can follow along with remotely. Campers will also be able to text questions to instructors, upload video of them training for response within 48 hours, and view sessions on-demand. Smith stressed the importance of that interaction towards developing one’s game. 

Listen to the rest of Smith and Goff’s conversation, which touches on the litany of considerations facing the NBA as it embarks on its bubble experiment in Orlando, here or via the embedded player above.

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What to watch for: Bulls seek signature road win against Boston Celtics

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USA Today

What to watch for: Bulls seek signature road win against Boston Celtics

Celtics’ last five games (2-3)

  • Jan. 11 — W vs. Pelicans: 140-105

  • Jan. 9 — L at 76ers: 109-98

  • Jan. 8 — L vs. Spurs: 129-114

  • Jan. 6 — L at Wizards: 99-94

  • Jan. 4 — W at Bulls: 111-104

Storyline(s) to watch

The Celtics (26-11) are just one game removed from their longest losing streak of the season, but that game was a 140-point outburst against the Pelicans in which Jayson Tatum dropped a career-high 41 points. Boston is among the most balanced teams in the league — ranking third in net rating — and though the Bulls (14-26) hung around in their Jan. 4 matchup in Chicago, the Celtics’ 15-3 home record looms ominous tonight. 

Even after bouncing the Pistons in Detroit on Saturday, the Bulls remain in search of a signature win. Well, this would certainly qualify. Adversity abounds: Kemba Walker is back for Boston after missing their prior meetup, and Wendell Carter Jr.’s absence will be especially felt against a team that both outrebounded and outscored the Bulls in the paint by solid margins just over a week ago.  A victory would send a message.

Player to watch: Kemba Walker

On Jan. 4, the Celtics’ wings (Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward) burned the Bulls to the tune of a combined 71 points on 28-for-42 shooting. And they may very well again. But Walker’s reintroduction into the Celtics’ rotation presents another host of challenges for the Bulls to contend with. 

It starts with the pick-and-roll. The Celtics run the ninth most pick-and-roll in the NBA (23.7 possessions per game) with the league’s second-highest points per possession (1.00) and third-lowest turnover rate (11.3%) on such plays — Walker helms exactly 10 of those possessions per contest and is adept at the controls: His points per possession (1.07), eFG% (56.2%) and turnover rate (10%) in PnR all rank in the top six of ball-handlers that run at least five per game. 

He’s especially dangerous coming around high screens and firing off the dribble. Walker shoots 36.1% on 6.1 pull up 3-pointers per game — healthy efficiency on solid volume — and only needs an inch to get his shot off:

 

The Bulls are equipped to deal with such a threat — they force opponents out of pick-and-roll plays, and force turnovers and limit efficiency in them, better than any group in the league. As usual, the onus will be on staying out of foul trouble and making the Celtics’ ancillary playmakers uncomfortable if and when they do force the ball out of Walker's hands. 

Matchup to watch: Third quarter performance

The third quarter swung these teams’ last game, a familiar trope for the 2019-20 Bulls. The Celtics won the period 30-21, pushing a 55-52 halftime advantage to 85-73 entering the fourth, and held the Bulls to 31.2% shooting from the field and 1-for-7 from deep.

On the season, the Celtics sport second-highest third quarter net rating in the NBA (+13.9) compared to the Bulls’ 29th (-9.6). From first to second halves, the Celtics’ offensive rating jumps from 107.1 to 116.1 and their shooting percentages across the board increase substantially, while the Bulls’ defensive rating slips from second in the NBA in the first quarter, to sixth in the second, to 18th in the third, to 19th in the fourth.  

If this game is competitive coming out of the halftime break — likely, considering the Bulls’ propensity for fast starts and the Celtics’ propensity for the opposite — both teams’ urgency and adjustments coming out of the half could decide this one, too.

News and nuggets

  • No injury news or suspect reports from either team outside of the usual. Daniel Gafford will stick with the starters, per Jim Boylen.

  • Beware, once again, of Enes Kanter’s minutes. On Jan. 4, Kanter put up 17 points and 12 rebounds (six offensive) off the bench and led a demoralizing late third-quarter spurt in which he scored eight points in just a minute-and-a-half. The Bulls will hunt Kanter in space on the offensive end of the floor, but his ability in the post and on the glass has the potential to do damage again — especially against the Bulls' reserves.

  • Last time these teams met, Kris Dunn drew extended minutes guarding Tatum, but with Walker back, it’ll be interesting to see how Jim Boylen chooses to deploy his best perimeter defender. Tatum dropped 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting on Jan. 4, but a lot of those makes were incredibly tough (and borderline irreplicable) shots down the stretch.

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Celtics' Kemba Walker reportedly inactive for matchup with Bulls

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USA TODAY

Celtics' Kemba Walker reportedly inactive for matchup with Bulls

As first reported by The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach, Kemba Walker did not travel with the Celtics to Chicago for their game against the Bulls tonight.

Walker missed the Celtics Friday night matchup with the Atlanta Hawks with the flu. In his absence, Marcus Smart slid into the team's starting lineup and had 15 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks while taking lead responsibilities on Trae Young. He's not the pure scorer Walker is, but is a stat-sheet stuffer and should give the Bulls defensive fits at every level. 

Though the Celtics have not officially updated the NBA's official injury portal as of yet, Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports/Real GM reported that backup center Enes Kanter called himself a gametime decision and Carsen Edwards is being recalled from the G League.

The Celtics recalled Tremont Waters in a correponding move to Walker's inactivity on Friday. He logged four minutes against Atlanta and didn't score.

It seems the Bulls will get the benefit of another shorthanded opponent tonight.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.