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Former Celtics forward Antoine Walker is making an attempt to get back into professional basketball, signing on with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA’s D-League. Walker, 34, most recently attempted to walk-on with the Charlotte Bobcats this fall, though his last season as a pro came with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007-2008. He was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love and others, but never saw the court. D-League Blogger Scott Schroeder of AOL FanHouse broke the story of his comeback on Monday.
Walker has found himself in the news for a litany of financial woes. After earning about $110 million over his 13-year career, he landed in the news after being wanted for nearly $900,000 in bad debts accumulated in Las Vegas casinos. Widely known for his generosity, Walker always traveled with a large entourage, and always picked up the check.
Following years of off-season workouts in Chicago with Michael Jordan, Walker developed a close friendship with the legend. Jordan, known to have an affinity for gambling himself, likely spent many nights at high-stakes tables with Walker. But Jordan could afford to absorb the losses that Walker could not. When Walker reportedly showed up uninvited to Bobcats camp last September, he still couldn’t convince Jordan to sign him. Maybe Jordan knows when not to gamble, too. Walker’s most recent performance came in Puerto Rico for the Guaynabo Mets, where he averaged 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds, not bad, but not exactly setting the world on fire, either. The Mets released him in the end.
Walker may earn a maximium of $25,000 for the Stampede, little help when his bankruptcy claims $12.7 million in liabilities and $4.3 million in assets, including his 2006 NBA championship ring, which he won with the Miami Heat. While he certainly needs the money, this is an attempt to play his way back into the NBA, the only thing he really knows.
Walker was once, albeit briefly, the face of the Celtics franchise. He shot loads of threes, many of them ill-advised, and his trademark “wiggle” drove basketball standbys crazy. When Paul Pierce arrived in green, Walker gladly relinquished the spotlight to the younger, and better talent. He never got enough credit for that.
Upon his arrival, Danny Ainge couldn’t get rid of him quick enough, though he did bring ‘Toine back for a second tour of duty when the Hawks traded him back to Boston (along with a first rounder that would become Rajon Rondo) for Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta, and Michael Stewart. Walker’s presence lifted the Celtics from mediocre to inspired, and they played watchable basketball for the remainder of the season, and even salvaged a playoff spot in those dark days before the new Big 3 set up shop.
Walker will need to pass a routine background check before his signing with the Stampede is official. He has reportedly lost 18 to 25 pounds and has been working out regularly in Chicago. Here’s hoping he finds himself on an NBA roster soon.