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Can Antoine Walker Make it Back to the NBA?

Antoine Walker (courtesy ESPN.com)

After spending the last two years out of the NBA, devastating financial issues related to gambling and other debt have prompted former Celtic Antoine Walker to attempt a comeback to the NBA.

Back in 2002, I remember watching a playoff game between the Celtics and the 76ers, back when Walker was the unquestioned leader and Paul Pierce was the enigmatic youngster. Antoine had come out absolutely on fire, like one of those NBA Jams characters, and nailed his first seven three-point tries. Thrilled by this scorching display of shooting, we naturally wanted him to keep firing, and in typical Antoine fashion, he obliged. The result was also typical Antoine, six consecutive misses. The reason I bring up this game is because it’s a microcosm of his entire career.

Walker had a very unique set of skills; he had tremendous passing vision, the ability to shoot from range and an impressive array of post moves. For whatever reason, he chose to rely on his shooting. He ignored the numbers that suggested he was a world class brick-layer, all for his love of contested 25 foot jumpers. Antoine led the league in three point attempts three years in a row (2000-2003), easily topping the number of triples hoisted by legitimately great shooters like Ray Allen and Reggie Miller. He shot a miserable 32% from deep in 2002/2003, yet still felt the need to fire up 582 threes.

However, despite his pension to jack up bad shots, Walker was definitely an excellent player. He was, after all, the best player the Celtics had after Larry Bird retired. A three-time All-Star, Antoine was multi-talented on offense and could defend and rebound better than anyone on the Celtics at the time. He was the leader of a 2001-2002 Celtics team that made the Conference Finals, and also played a big role in the Miami Heat’s 2006 title.

Will he come back?

So far, no one has invited Walker to training camp, and as much as I’d love our old friend to find his way back into the NBA, it’s not happening. Antoine was completely out of shape and washed up by age 30. Even a 22-win Timberwolves team back in 2007 had no use for him. Sadly, the chances of an NBA team signing the decrepit (and 34-year-old) Walker for the 2010-2011 season aren’t good.

So unless Danny Ainge wants to relive the glory days of a perennial 42-win team from the last decade (a team he dismantled, by the way), don’t expect to see Antoine in Celtic Green ever again.

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