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12:28 AM ET, 5/17/06
Weighing in on Antoine
Posted by Andrew Lawrence
Over the past 10 years, it has become virtually impossible to follow the NBA without having some kind of opinion on Antoine Walker. Regardless of your level of interest in pro basketball -- whether you're the type who catches his games between pints or holds daily vigils in front of the satellite TV -- you are invariably forced to think something about Walker. The Miami Heat's 106-105 series-clinching victory over the New Jersey Nets offers plenty of grist for the mill.
If you're a Walker fan, Tuesday night was your showcase in point. In Game 5, we saw the complete Walker -- the gifted marksman, the punishing post man, the crafty slasher, the dedicated rebounder. When we think of Walker, this is the player who most often comes to mind. When Dwyane Wade couldn't get it going, making only one of his nine shot attempts out of the gate, it was Walker who powered the Heat. He finished with 23 points -– including 4-for-9 from 3-point range -- all while contributing timely buckets that either ignited or sustained Heat scoring binges.
If you're a Walker detractor, Tuesday night was just as helpful to your argument. For us, Walker's completeness was never in question. It's his engagement that's at issue. The biggest difference, it would seem, between Walker last night and Walker on any other night was that he was interested. His play wasn't especially jaw dropping; it was just smart. More impressive to Walker haters than the man's basketball IQ is his (perceived) reluctance to apply it. They cite his dubious 3-point shot selection as a sign of laziness, his telegraphed drives to the left as a lack of commitment, his defensive lapses as a lack of focus. (Not that he had a chance on Richard Jefferson, who led the Nets with 33 points.)
That he could put it all together so brilliantly and in such a critical game and even more critical point in Miami's bespeaks a larger consistency issue. It's as if he's saying, "I could play like this all the time ... if I wanted to." We detractors resent this.
So here now is Walker's chance, his opportunity to shut his detractors up for good and put his supporters over the top. Whether it's Cleveland or Detroit (though in all likelihood, it'll probably be the latter), Walker will face his greatest test in the coming weeks. Will he be the guy who averages 20 a game for the Heat, who plays within Wade, who lets the game come to him and his many talents come to light? Or will he be the same ol' Employee No. 8, bricking 3s until the Heat are sent home? We can argue this ad nauseum, but Walker's play will have to settle the debate.
There's something vaguely off-putting about Walker and I can never place what it is. When he played for the Celtics I thought my Philadelphia-based biased might explain it. But no, I dislike his play just as much now, and for the same difficult to place reason. Perhaps a subtle mix of all aspects of his game simply strikes the wrong chord in some people, including me. He certainly can shoot. There will be no resultion here.
What's ugly about 'toine's game? Nearly everything. It's not that he's a bad player, but he just looks ugly running the floor, taking ill-advised threes, and let's face it - he just kind of looks fat. His game looks a lot worse than it is, and it shouldn't be surprising that he gets a lot less credit than he probably deserves. That being said, I wouldn't want him back in Boston.
He is somewhat of an inigma. He excels at nearly everything(except defense) but is great in none. If he was great in atleast one aspect of his game, he would be a far more consistent contributor. When he was with the Hawks he played hard every night; but even then he came up short every few games because of his limitations. I don't question his heart. It most likely lies with confidence, knowing the limits of his ability, and working within them to be effective.
we all used to say the same things about Derrick Coleman. Coleman could have been one of the greatest talents at the PF position, but attitudes, work ethic, and inconsistency overshadowed his talents. I love'toine, he was one of the few players who cared about being a Celtic. now he only has to step up when D Wade and Shaq don't. Love him or hate him, you gotta respect antoine.
You don't know how glad I am that you wrote this column, Andrew. It's safe to say that Antoine Walker is my least favorite athlete in all of sports, ahead of people like Barry Bonds, Zab Judah, Mike Tyson and the other antagonists of the sports world.
I disliked "Toine" w/ the Celtics, I disliked him w/ the Hawks, I especially disliked him with the Mavericks (and I'm a huge Mavs fan), and I dislike him now with the Heat. It's not just the fact that he couldn't care less and that he takes plays, games, and even seasons; fir that matter, off. It's way more than that. It's his body language, the way he carries himself, his undeserved sense of accomplishment, the sourpuss look he always has when things don't go his way, the constant and excessive whining to the referees when a call goes against him, his tendency to launch the worst possible threes at the wrong possible time.
I for one completely disagree with your opinion about him being a "gifted marksman, a punishing post man, a crafty slasher, or a dedicated rebounder" He is perfectly content with cruising through his 30 minutes, collecting his paycheck and heading home... even if his team lost by 30.
Anyway, I don't wanna go on about the guy. Last thing I'm gonna say is that while I usually find myself agreeing w/ Kenny Smith and disagreeing w/ Charles Barkley, I'm 100% w/ Barkley in his assertion that Walker is a slug, though he probably meant to say scrub... and I seriosuly doubt that any NBA fan outside of the Walker's family and circle of friends considers him their favorite basketball player. If any readers out there consider Walker your favorite player, please say so on this board and I will be proven wrong. Although I seriously doubt I will.
Heres a typical case of an extremely talented athlete whose skills and potential are only limited by his ego. He'll either win you a game (and live off the ego boosting endorphins)or throw it away for you (normally due to a case of over confidence - his mouth isnt as big as rasheeds but its close!). Eratic yes but if he's got his stars aligned, detroit is in for a nightmarish series ...
All those open looks Walker has been getting lately will dry up against the Pistons who will make Shaq & Wade beat them. Walkers games against Pistons.....3,2,15 & 6 points. I don't think his FG% needs to be quoted.
Heres another example of a star athlete whose basketball potential is only limited by his ego. He'll either win you a game (and feed off the enhanced state of endorphins running around his head)or brick it (with a dose of over confidence), theres no in betweener with antoine. Still though if antoines stars are aligned right, detroit will be in for a nightmarish series
Who's going to guard 'Toine? Prince? I think Prince won't guard Wade because that will force Hamilton to guard Walker, a clear mismatch in the low post... I'm pretty sure that no. 8 will have a solid series against either Detroit or Cleveland.
Walker is incredibly slow, especially lateraly. He shoots a miserable percentage from three and is the singularly most overrated player in the league. Just watch him play: his game is mediocre, but he believes it is superlative. So he takes shots that only a true star should. Thus the bad percentage. If he would realize how average he is, he could be a much more effective role player.
I agree with Elliot's comments, Walker is an intriguing player with exceptional ability. But he thinks he is better than he is, he can never be the best player on a team and expect that team to contend for a title. At his best he is a good supporting character, utilizing all of his skills to help a team that has a couple of stars. At his worst he is a ball-hogging, out of control, gunning, whiner that wants star treatment and star money but can't deliver. When he plays within the context of the game and he not the first or second option he is at his best. In this role a team can have a short leash on him when he starts losing his mind on the court. The problem is getting HIM to realize that and accept it. It seems like Pat has done a fairly decent job with him and understands Walker's limitations.
I am a long time Celtics fan and Antoine is your best and worst player...all at the same time. He'll make a great steal then run down the court and shoot an ill advised three. He'll draw some defenders, getting a teammate open, then he'll misfire the pass. You'll wait all game for him to take it to the hole, and then when he does it is when the paint is clogged with three defenders.
At the same time, there are moments like last night when he'll be hitting threes from everywhere, driving to the hole time and again for easy buckets, passing, defending, and doing basically everything. There were plenty nights with the Celtics when he was a better player than Paul Pierce.
One thing about 'Toine is he is useless against long, athletic forwards. Kenyon Martin would kill him on both ends of the floor when he was with us. R.J. is a great player, but a little too short to guard 'Toine.
I love Antoine's game. How can you argue with the results? He has made every team he has played on better by doing whatever the team needs. He has proven he is not just a "stats guy" (see Carter, Vince L.) Is it his fault that he has basically played out of position his whole career? Is he a 3? a 4? a "point-forward"? did the Mavs put him at the 5 during some games? He has still been able to contribute, take a ton of criticism, and constantly redeem himself with performances like last night. The Celtics have not even sniffed the playoffs since he took them to the Eastern Conference Finals. I bet more teams would take him than not no matter what the haters have to say.
As a Heat fan (and someone who didn't pay him any attention prior to his arrival) I liked the aquisition from the start. Is he perfect? Absolutely not.
But he complements the stars on this team so well. Everyone overlooks the fact that he's been very willing to take the role of being #3. Its funny that he replaced a player who was surrounded by just as much negative media in Eddie Jones. Jones was maligned for not taking the big shot at the critical moments.
Walker doesn't have that problem. I'd rather have someone on my team who thinks he can make every basket than one who'd rather pass the ball when the game is on the line.
I can't believe some people question Walker's work ethic. He's in the best shape of his career and has accepted a lesser role. Isn't that what you would want in a teammate who is in the twilight of his career?
At this point, AW shouldn't be compared to past versions of himself but only to other stars who have been asked to become role players on teams making a playoff run. On that score, AW comes out looking very good indeed. Anyone think Paul Pierce could come off the bench and do anything but disrupt the flow of the other players? Also: am I mistaken or is AW in better physical shape than at any other time in the last five years?
I like Antoine and always will as I am a diehard UK fan. However, he can be a bit sluggish at times and his shot selection can be questionable at others. But I wouldn't put him into the NBA "bad crowd". No on-court, off-court incidents. No Artest style meltdowns (punching fans, pushing Hamilton in final series game 2004, trade demand, etc.). In today's sports environment with the Artests and TO's of this world, I think there are much bigger detractors than Antione
I am a C's fan. Since '86. Been since. I know we all want to get on the I hate Antoine parade, but hey let's be honest here. When has he played in a stable situation? The Celtics? We were a mess! The Mavericks? At the time there was no structure there. The Hawks? Enough said. Finally the Heat. He's Wade, when Wade can't be Wade. He fills in Wade's lapses. Still capable of All-Star numbers, but like to be a 15 ppg game for the rest of his career. A career obviously because of this article, worthy of note.
Walker is as complete as a power forward as you will find in the game today. Yes, at times, he takes ill-advised shots but that should not take away from the player he is. He willed the Celtics to the playoffs year after year, including a trip to the Eastern Conf. Finals. When he came back last year he was the catalyst for their playoff run. And now he has done, what few others have, is put is pride to the side to become a piece of history and hopefully win a championship. All athletes today have faults, but I will take Antoine and is desire to win any day of the likes of Webber, Odom, & many others!
Walker and Williams have driven me crazy this series. They both seem play with a basketball IQ that is dwarfed by Vince Young's wonderlic score. Their defence has also been awful, but I also fail to understand why Riley is playing Walker at 3 in this series. Walker would be far more suited to guarding Kristic than Carter or Jefferson
I used to really dislike Walker's play and as a Heat fan, I was a little unhappy when he signed with us. Even through the regular season I wasn't quite happy with him but he seemed willing to play as a second (or third) scoring option and that's a plus. In the playoffs, he hasn't played any worse than any other player on the team and he actually seems pretty relaxed in these playoff games. He's providing good rock-solid composure to the team and is putting worry in the hearts of opponents. I don't think he's lazy, I think he's simply calm. Even if he screws up the rest of the way, I'm happy for his contribution to this point.
Walker is one of the most talented power forwards in the game today. He does anything he can to win and never plays lazy. The Heat are fortunate to have such a player swallow his pride and fill in as a role player. For years Walker willed the Celtics to the playoffs and even led them to the Eastern Conf Finals. Last year, when he was traded back to the Celtics, he was the catalyst for their playoff run. I would take him any day over Webber in Philly!
He jacks up crazy 3's all the time. Most of the time they miss and he's a nonfactor and defensive liability. On rare occaisons, they go in and he's a contributor. I wouldn't want him on my team. Not a chance.
His ego is bigger than his game, just like his salary. His Adidas deal of years ago gave him his justification to become another overpriced role player. Before the deal, he was all about the sweat, tears and hard work. Now, it's all about the ducats and how they living now. It's painful to watch him play, as though he has to recharge his batteries before he musters up enough energy to make a move. Oh well, if only us fans were as fortunate.
I've always appreciated Walker's talents and the effort he put in, I'll never understand how opinions are derived. He's the same age and he's had better statistics across the board as well as more career wins during his tenure in Boston than Paul Pierce has and yet he's hated in Boston where Paul Pierce is loved.
He has always been inconsistent as a player but when he wanted it, he got it. He is now a different player than he was in his prime. Most teams would love having him come off the bench. His instant offense can save a team, even one the best, the Heat.
Walker should be given credit along with Paul Pierce for carrying those Celtic teams to the playoffs. But as much as I love the guy, he is just not interested in showing up some nights, and when you play with that type of mindset, there may be nights when you don't show up when you wish you could. I think the Heat are playing him the right way for now. I think he has a chip on his shoulder and he wants to show he can help a team to the title. Now he has the stage to do it. Let's see what he does.
It doesnt matter what Walker does! He is surrounded by talent much greater than his and he wont have to do much but pick up someone on the fast breaks.. Hit a 3 once and awhile and this years Winners of the NBA finals are the ... Miami Heat.......
As a devote Celtics fan, I believe 'Toine was brought more good than bad. You can talk about his poor shot selection and inefficient play, but his big pluses were/are intangible. As a captain, he never passed the blame, helped develop younger players, and was a good motivator. His poor shot selection can partially be blamed on the Celtics system while he was there. O’Brien emphasized hardcore D and gave Pierce and Walker freedom to run the offense. He was never afraid to take the big shot, talked the loudest game, taunted the wrong players at the wrong time, and over-celebrated every minor accomplishment, but he also inspired his teammates and played hard every night. When he was in Boston, I wish they took away some of his PT until he ran a more structured offense, but it never happened. I was glad to have him back briefly last year and think that he can be better than a mere role player. I’ll remember him for inspiring the 24 point 4th quarter comeback against NJ in game 3.
Don't knock a man down when he performs. Appreciate what efforts he puts in when extra-ordinary. We all have our good days and just some days when things are not going the way we want it. Does that mean we are bad. You may have the old # 8, but with the playoffs, he has definitely stepped up his play. Can't we all just enjoy the moment.
Pat Riley has built a very dangerous team if he can actually convince walker to stop his gunslinging ways and defer himself to Wade and Shaq. Add in a cocky gary payton and a focused Jason Williams not even mentioning Udonis Halsem and the Pistons should have their hands full in the next series.
I'm not a Walker fan by any means, however I cannot deny that the kid is talented! He has a lot of potential that he doesn't tap into 60% of the time. If his threes are not dropping he seems to get lost in the game, instead of focusing on other ways to help his team (rebounding, driving to the bucket). However when he is on, not only will he go on a run, but he also ignites his team. Jayson Williams fits this mold as well...throwing up threes when they are not falling. However I really enjoyed watching him play last night, instead of settling for the three he stepped in a few feet and sank the midrange jumper! It is nice to see this Heat team becoming consistent, but in my opinion they need a little more intensity on defense to go with their explosive offense because in my opinion the Nets & Bulls scored on them too easily at time! Go HEAT!
I think Walker is hitting his groove. Remember, this is a guy who by all accounts played well last year in boston. Yes he has some holes in this game but if he's confident and hitting his shots he could be the guy that puts Miami in the finals
I think 'Joe Don' hit it right on the head. He's in his groove right now and it's very important for the Heat that he stays there. he could have a Robert Horry finals type impact throughout the remainder of these playoffs.
Either way he was clutch down the stretch, in the next series we will get him to contribute 10 pts in games 1 and 2 but as long as he steps it up by the 3rd and 4th game he will have an impact, D-Wade can carry this team on those off-days for his slugs.
I think Antoine is an extremely talented ball player who has no feel for the game, hence the ill advised drives and 3 pointers who everyonce in a while puts it all together but doesn't retain that feeling game to game. It's the exact opposite of those 9-12 men who sit on the bench with great knowledge and feel for the game, but don't have the physical gifts like Walker.
Though I agree Antoine can tend to appear to be a lazy, unfocused player, when he is on I believe he is one of the 10 best in the league. He is one of the best three point shooting big men in the league (though I do admit he may shoot them too much(, and you can't close out on him to quickly or else he will drive on you, where he is a solid finsher. His post game is very good considering how perimeter oriented he is, and he is also a guy who will hit the open man and can get out on the fast break. So while I do agree at times he appears lay, he is still a great talent which he showed last night
As a life-long, New England born/raised Celtic fan I fell that I can speak with some authority. To sum Walker we can use a favorite saying of a close friend of mine: "It is what it is." (This truth can be applied comically or ironically to ANY possible situation.)
In short Walker is what he is: he's doing what he has always done, and has done what he always will do. At this point it's a little late to wonder that 'Toine might change his proverbial "spots," and show that he can take his game to some unforseen level of consistently exceptional ability. Rather, as you observed, 'Toine will continue to do what he has always done: play inconsistenly exceptional basketball.
I ask! what has he done recently that he has never done before (see 'Toine's Celtic playoff performances) that would make you wonder if he would become consistently exceptional??? Even in the Nets series he did what he has always done: appear and disappear.
Walker gets more of a bad rap than anybody in sports today. Much of this goes back to his early days in Boston when he fired at will, and did his "shimmy shake" afterwards. However, those Boston teams were horrible and Walker was a 30 year old kid trying to have some fun and excite an otherwise dead Boston crowd. When Pierce arrived and the Celtics made a run in the playoffs under Jim O'brien Walker deferred to Pierce and publicly told people that Pierce was the man on the team. During the playoffs in 2001 it was Walker that fired Pierce and the team up to come from behind a huge deficit against New Jersey and win. When Danny Ainge came in he told Walker to shape up or ship out. Walker shaped up (a look he still has) and Ainge still shipped him out. Then he landed in the waste land of Atlanta, and played his butt off and kept him mouth shut. He even talked about wanting to stay, sign a long term deal and turn the franchise around. When he was traded back to Boston he brought fire and leadership to a team that needed both, nobody was happier than Pierce to have him back. So now he's in Miami. Watch the guy play without an unbiased opinion and you will see a guy who plays hard every single night. Yes, he occasionally takes too many threes, and has never been or will never be a great defender, but have you ever heard a single teamate say anything bad about Antione Walker? (By the way, in Boston, O'brien told him to launch as much as possible)The guy is a very good player and he wants nothing more than to win every night, keep your eyes open and you will notice.
Simply put, Walker needs to play smart and do what he does best. There is no rocket science to this. He's 6'8" and needs to play like he's a 6'8" forward who is quicker than most power forwards and stronger than most small forwards. An occasional 3 point shot in rhythm is alright or even a brick here or two here and there can be forgiven. But when you attempt to take over the point position on every play (forcing a Scottie Pippen mentality when you're not Scottie), or being to thing you are Reggie Miller (ha!, that was rich) then we have a problem. If he can simply play smart and use his advantages like he did that night within the context of the game, letting it all come to him and remaining agressive, then it all comes together! We'll see how this pans out.
Walker can't win. If he scores 20 points and they lose he will be called a ball hog and if his shot isn't falling and he is smart enough to take only 7 shots it will be said that he didn't do enough.
Anyone that says Walker doesn't show up every night doesn't know what they are talking about.If anything when his shot selection goes crazy it is because he is trying to do too much because he hates losing.
Boston never appreciated anyone (not even players like Millar that helped win the God like Red Sox a world series) and Dallas only cares about how many points Dirk gets to score. Walker was more appreciated in Atlanta for his never give up attitude then he ever was in pathetic Boston or band wagon jumping Dallas. Both of these towns especially Boston are the most overrated when it comes to fans.
Most of you are missing AW's value. He is physical to get rebounds like a four (PF) but can bring the ball up like a 3(SF)/1(PG). He shoots as a third option so his looks arfe rarely the best, however his experience in big games has proven to be able to drive this team and surpise the heat's opponents. He has a better than average basketball IQ, which helps tremendously in the playoffs. again, you can't double team three players (shaq, wade, toine). Give riley credit for inserting toine in the starting lineup to give him touches and to get in the flow of the game.
Whenever I watch 'Toine I cannot understand how someone thats shoots reasonably well 3s stinks it up from the free throw line every single night. The guy is a 64% FT shooter and the last few years he was just over 50%. Considering Shaq shoots around 50% for years that will be a killer at some point in the playoffs!
I've always been a Celitic fan and remember that before Pierce came to town, he was the only reason to watch the team. As Pierce evolved into a superstar, I watched as AW unselfishly assumed the role of #2 scorer and supported Peirce as the star for the good of the team. Ainge is like many Walker haters and couldn't wait to get him out of town when he took over the reigns Boston, but the C's would have been so much better off had he considered building around both Walker and Pierce as evidenced by last season's run to win the Atlantic division title. He did a lot more for the Celtics than Webber did for the Sixers during that run. Like most NBA players, he has pros and cons, but you can't question: 1) the positive impact he's had on his teams, and 2) that he's put his ego on the shelf on multiple occasions for the betterment of his teams. I'm glad that he'll have a shot at winning the title with Miami.