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Pitino, Walker to clear air soon
Pitino, Walker to clear air soon
by Steve Bulpett
Monday, October 4, 1999
The Celtics will meet with each other and the media today and hold their
first practice tomorrow, but before they ever take to the court, a
meeting will take place that likely will be more important than any
drill or exhibition game.
And if things go as Rick Pitino expects when he sits down with Antoine
Walker, the Celtics' trip could move from a winding back road to the
fast lane on the NBA highway. The coach plans to set some records
straight - from both ends of the equation.
While Pitino will go one-on-one with every player to establish goals and
plans, clearly this is one pair that must be in harmony for the Celts to
accomplish anything of significance.
The two did speak this summer after Walker's name came up in trade talk
and questions were raised about his offseason conditioning work. The
result was positive, with both perhaps realizing that open lines of
communication can prevent small matters from growing into problems.
``I think it was crucial,'' Pitino said of that first discussion. ``We
talked on the phone and I think he got all his frustrations out on the
table about his name coming up and all that.
``And when he comes in, I'm going to get my frustrations out, too.
Everything's going to be put onto the table. Then I'm going to say,
`We're on the same team, now let's go out and kick some ass.'
``The first time we talked, all I did was listen. I wanted to hear
exactly where he was. I said, `OK, Antoine, I'm going to agree with you
on all this for now. And when you come in, I'm going to give you my
views on your career and where it should be going. Then we're going to
go back to our Kentucky days and kill for each other.' ''
In truth, Walker's future is essentially in his own hands. After saying
last season he wanted to slim down this summer and, in his words, be a
Scottie Pippen type, the burden and the opportunity are upon him.
If he is in shape and can impress the coaches with improved shot
selection, Walker could step in as the starting small forward. If not,
he will crowd the scene at power forward. The fact that people have been
leaning toward the latter means Walker must change some minds.
There was some question as to how much the Celtics wanted Walker, but
Pitino sounds as if he's using some perspective on things.
While he may have wanted him to dive into offseason workouts, the coach
is aware that Walker did not head into the break with full health.
``Legitimately, he shouldn't have come back and played after the ankle
sprain last year,'' Pitino said. ``But he did and he needed time to get
it better this summer.
``This is a young man with great pride. I expect him to come in here
ready to play and get everything he should out of his ability.''
If Pitino's expectations are met, the Celtics could be in for an
interesting season. It starts today but, by collective bargaining rule,
all they will be able to do is speak with the media, hold a team meeting
and conduct physicals in Waltham.
The dribbling begins tomorrow morning, with the first exhibition game
scheduled for Oct. 13 against Charlotte at the FleetCenter.