[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Thanks for posting the Michael Holley article on Antoine Walker. It was
obviously a fascinating article that could be read many ways, so I hope
to read lots of list-member's views about it.
I was surprised to see that so much of AW's present ambivalence toward
the Celtics & Pitino can be traced to what I had thought at the time was
Peter May's pretty weak attempt at character assassination last month,
where he 1) made Rick Pitino sound upset (by IMO coaxing out and then
warping RP's relatively benign comments) and 2) implied that AW was
guilty of high insubordination for missing a summer shooting instruction
class and that his days as a Celtic were numbered. In retrospect, I wish
Pitino had just said "no comment" to that viper Peter May. Remember
folks, Peter May is the guy who also blithely wrote that AW is "the most
hated player in the NBA" without mentioning a single source to support
this hugely slanderous assertion. If I were David Falk, I might urge
'Toine to just sue Peter May and the Boston Globe for his first easy
Whether or not AW is a simpatico guy is still up in the air, but the
Holley article at least presented the kid as both intelligent about
what's going on and naively honest to a flaw, particularly compared to
his coach and so many other guys in the NBA. If I may say so, AW's
stunning lack of spin and slickness in the Holley article (mark my
words, this will eventually get him in trouble!) reminds me of a
fresh-out-of-Terre-Haute Larry Bird. If only Walker was more at ease
talking to the white media (like Kobe, MJ etc.), we fans would probably
do nothing but rave - based on all evidence to date - about what a
clean-living, hard-working, well-grounded and generous person he is off
the court compared to Jordan, Barkley and the rest.
Another thing I got out of this fascinating article is that AW will be
going to war against Paul Pierce in practice, and that Pitino better be
ready to step in to protect the talented rookie's ego from too much
damage before the season even starts. As far as I'm concerned, AW's
raging, Bird-esque competitiveness is ultimately a good thing both for
Pierce and the Celtics.
I've had a enough of losing. I want to be out on the streets of Paris
shouting my heart out when we "Beat LA" in the year 2000.
Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 05:47:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: Josh Ozersky <email@example.com>
Subject: Walker Globe Article
Walker sounds off - Celtics' star deflects criticism, expounds on
By Michael Holley, Globe Staff, 07/17/98
CHICAGO - The coach wears prebleached, blue-jean shorts
made by Maurice Malone. So, officially, the huge ''M'' sewn on one of
his back pockets is the signature of the designer. But it could easily
stand for misunderstood. Ask yourself: Do you know him? Now, ask more
than 200 Chicagoans, most of them between ages 7 and 14, the same
Of course you recognize Antoine Walker. He is hard to miss. He is the
tall one, 6 feet 9 inches, soon to be 22 years old, wearing a white
T-shirt soaked with sweat. It is wet because the tall Celtic is now
going hoarse, calling for a fullcourt press during an all-star game at
his summer camp. Afterward, his campers will tell you how they hung
out with Coach Walker for six 6-hour days at Mount Carmel High;
watched videos and ate pizza with him; were instructed by him;
received autographed posters, equipment bags, and water bottles from
him and, most important, left with experiences and memories that cost
as much as the entry fee to ''Toine's Camps: Chicago '98'': nothing.
The Celtics and Rick Pitino recognize Walker, too. Do they know him?
Maybe they don't realize how he feels about his friends and his
profession, strong enough to say that Pitino's summer camps in Boston
are a waste of his time and that he will never attend. ''Never,'' he
repeats. Maybe they don't know how he defines loyalty, intense enough
to say that he doesn't feel his coach is supporting him, he isn't sure
if he wants to play for him anymore, sometimes he doesn't feel like a
part of the team, and that if the NBA lockout ends soon enough for the
Celtics to sign him in 1998 and they don't do it, he will say goodbye
to Boston, guaranteed.
Maybe skeptics don't know how his sisters, Tywanna and Konosha,
influence several of his dances and how many of his moves are daily
love letters to them. Or how the cellphone that thrice fell from that
big ''M'' back pocket while he was coaching is used to keep in
constant contact with his mother, Diane. Or how he recently dropped
$12,000 to bankroll a struggling AAU team that needed funds for trips
to Atlanta and Las Vegas. There was even a meeting he set up between
adidas and his friend, Ed Hall, a man Walker thought would be a nice
fit with the athletic company's creative unit.
We all know that he is from Chicago, but do we know that most adults
in his family don't want him to play for the Bulls and would prefer he
stay in Boston? And since we are speaking of Boston, we must mention
contracts. Six years at $100 million? Walker insists that Paul Gaston
and Pitino have never received such a demand, from him or his agent.
Now ask yourself again: Do you know the man who has spent two seasons
improvising on the parquet? And remember, ask the kids,too.
''I just do what I do,'' he says as he drives his silver Mercedes Benz
north on Lakeshore Drive. ''People always make their own impression of
you and, maybe, give you a title that you may not want. So I just
chill. What I do means more for the kids than what the media will ever
see, so I do it for the kids.''
But what of the Celtics? Their future depends on their understanding
of Antoine Walker. He is their franchise player. They must know
everything they can about him. And although he says there hasn't been
a salary demand from him, you can be sure the price tag will be
significantly higher than the nonexistent one Chicago adolescents paid
to spend a few summer days with 'Toine.
Walker is inside his sparsely decorated loft, only a few minutes from
the United Center. There are pictures of Ron Mercer, Chauncey Billups,
and Walter McCarty. There are also pictures of Walker with his friends
from Chicago. On the floor is a videogame that Walker masters, NBA
Live. He leans back in a black leather chair and discusses the only
coach who impressed his mother four years ago during recruiting season.
He is asked why he didn't attend Pitino's summer camp. Two weeks ago,
Pitino said Walker's absence ''disappointed'' him.
''Some guys need to go,'' Walker said. ''Some guys are rookies and
need it. I think it's fine for the guys who are in the area. They are
going to stay there and make Boston their home. That's fine. But here,
I have my own little thing I do [he works out with several NBA
players, Juwan Howard, Tim Hardaway, and Randy Brown among them] and
it's worked well for me so far in my career. What do you want me to
Pitino wasn't suggesting he stop his routine. But the coach did
question why Walker was in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the draft
with former Kentucky teammate Nazr Mohammed when he could have been in
Boston working out.
''Well,'' Walker said, ''I think it's summertime. I'm on my own. Nazr
is a good friend of mine who asked me to be at his draft. Coach Pitino
never asked me personally; he never said he wanted me to be [in
Boston]. He sent someone else to call me. I think that has to be
highlighted. If you want me there so bad, you have to call and explain
that to me. Then I could have told him I'm not going to be there.
Maybe if he said me being there would have made everybody else come,
then maybe I would have made that sacrifice.
''But right now, there's too many negative comments being put in the
paper. I don't even feel like a part of the team. My intention was to
go. I would have went if I had known ahead of time. But then I found
out we were going there for individual workouts; I thought we were
going as a group, as a team, maybe get something accomplished. We were
going for individual workouts. I think that's a waste of time. I can
do that where I'm at in Chicago.''
Reached last night, Pitino said he couldn't comment on any of Walker's
remarks. ''We're in a lockout,'' the coach said. ''So I can't comment.''
But it is clear the coach does not appreciate Walker speaking out
against him. While at Kentucky, Pitino had a rule: If you can't say
anything positive, don't say anything. Obviously, Pitino will not see
Walker's remarks as positive.
Eventually, Walker will rise from his chair and excitedly clap his
hands. At that moment, the childrens' all-star game will be conceived.
It was not part of the original camp plan, but anyone who knows Walker
can tell you that he loves competition. Eventually, he will sit down
with 12-year-old Jamale Tidwell - ''a young blazer,'' Walker says,
pointing to the gifted basketball player - and make sure he has a pair
of new adidas, the company with which Walker recently signed a 10-year
contract. Eventually, he will ask Tidwell if he will be OK getting
home with the new shoes because he knows that people sometimes do
terrible things to acquire new sneakers.
But all that will happen later. Walker is upset.
''There's a lot I have to evaluate right now,'' he says. ''Do I want
to stay in Boston? Do I want to play for Coach Pitino? And right now,
I don't think comments should be made. If your main goal is to sign
me, just say, ''My goal is to sign Antoine. We haven't talked to him
yet.' Don't make comments in the paper about, `Well, Antoine wants too
much money ...' when you haven't spoken to me personally or my agent.
And that's the thing that upsets me the most. I don't want to get into
the verbal back-and-forth of you said this and you said that. But a
person can only take so much of negative publicity.''
So does he want to stay in Boston? His uncle, Mike Walker, wants him
to stay (''Best place for him,'' his uncle says). Mike Walker's
sister, Antoine's mother, wants him to stay (''Rick Pitino was the
only one who came to my home and stressed education,'' Diane Walker
says. ''He told me he would treat my son like his own and I
appreciated that.''). Does Walker, the All-Star, want to stay?
''To be honest, I would love to,'' he says. ''But sometimes I have
doubts. Right now with the comments being made, well, I don't like
comments being made, know what I'm saying? Right now, I'm an All-Star
at this level. And I want to be treated like that. You work hard to
get at a certain level, you want to maintain that level. And I can't
maintain it like this when my coach isn't behind me.
''I'm tired of this negative publicity that's been getting in the
paper. They say, ''We didn't say it like this; we didn't word it like
that.' Why not just: `No comment'?''
There is a lot unsaid in the Walker pauses. He remembers all slights
and perceived shuns. For all the Walker Wiggles and technicals and
scowls, Walker is described as a soft-spoken man who craves the
every-other-week, Sunday-through-Friday sessions he has with his
4-year-old daughter, Crystal.
''She's built just like 'Toine,'' laughs Dennis Smith, a friend of
Walker's. ''She's knock-kneed and everything.''
Walker remembers not receiving the Catholic League MVP at Mount
Carmel, an award that went to a rival player named Jerry Gee, who
played at Illinois. He remembers the taunts from fans, people
chastising him for showing off, people saying he couldn't read. He
remembers not getting consideration for Rookie of the Year. He
remembers Grizzlies general manager Stu Jackson telling him that he
couldn't pick him third in the 1996 draft because he wasn't projected
that high. He remembers last month, how he wanted the Celtics to draft
forward-center Mohammed and how they wound up with guard-forward Paul
''Pierce is a good player,'' Walker says. ''He's a guy who can come
off the bench and give scoring to our second unit. But I know our team
needs. We need big people.''
Whoa. Pierce off the bench? How about Pierce starting?
''It could happen,'' Walker said. '' ... But I don't see it.''
Walker is a sensitive man. So if the Celtics choose to wait and see
how he performs in 1998-99 without first signing him to a contract
''If that happens, I won't re-sign. That's a guarantee. If the lockout
works out where I can sign this year and they don't sign me to an
extension, I will not come back. If they don't sign me? I'm gone.
That's not showing loyalty to me. It shouldn't be a question. If that
happens, no matter what I do [in '98-99] I'm gone.''
Twenty-four hours after her son says this, Diane Walker - often
mistaken as a 20-something sister of Walker's - will be wearing a
Celtics T-shirt. She knows her son is a pro star. In Boston.
''I want to win, man,'' he says. ''I'd like to stay in Boston. The
fans are excellent. It's a great place to play. It would be weird to
go into a new city and establish a new identity when I already have
one there. But I know I was on the trading block. I guess that's
business because maybe the Celtics could get three players for me or
But there is an echo in this room, with its exposed brick walls and
hardwood floors. The topic echoes, too, going all the way back to the
summer camp Walker did not attend.
''Let me tell you,'' he says, ''no veteran, All-Star player shows up
for a camp like that. For the rest of my career, I'll never go to a
camp like that. Never.''
A happy camper
The camp that Walker doesn't believe is a waste of time takes place at
his old high school. Walker is here, sitting at a table in a noisy
Student Center. He is eating pizza and watching a tape from 1994 when
a skinny high schooler in a brown and white jersey - No. 23 - is on
his way to a 35-point night.
Here, all Walker has to do is make sure he is around for the children,
his brothers and sisters among them. A few campers watch as a team led
by Walker and Donovan McNabb take on Miles Simon's team. Some of
Walker's friends have volunteered as coaches and referees. They tease
him as he watches the tape.
You can see hints of his game, then: the swagger, the ballhandling,
''He's quiet off the court,'' Diane Walker says. ''On the court is the
only time he really shows a lot of emotion. It's something he loves to
do. A lot of people misread his facial expressions. I understand that
because people do the same thing with me.''
But 20,000 people in NBA arenas have never watched Diane Walker do the
Walker Wiggle. She hasn't been whistled for 30 technicals in two
seasons. She has not been accused of being, ''the most hated player in
the NBA.'' The children here would disagree with that. So would Walker.
''I think I'm the most loved player in the NBA,'' he says, smiling.
''Really, people in the NBA love each other. No one in the NBA really
hates someone else. Maybe there was something extra in the Larry
Johnson-Alonzo Mourning fight, something that went beyond the court.
But most guys love each other. We're playing in the best league in the
world and many of us are millionaires; why would you hate anybody?''
Hall adds of the on-court Walker, ''Once you open your mouth you've
got to do something. A quiet person can get away with playing bad and
delivering nothing. But a vocal person has to accept the criticism.
When Antoine is on the court, he's mean-spirited. When he steps out,
he's a human being like anyone else. He has compassion; he has concern
for the youth.''
Hall points to a gym full of smiling children. ''This is like wanting
the ball right here,'' he says. ''Creating a camp for the kids. Giving
them an opportunity to mingle with him, learn a few fundamentals and
have fun. He wants the ball. He's stepping up. Off the court.''
Walker will leave today for Miami where he will play in Mourning's
charity game. At the end of this month, he'll go to LA and play in
Magic Johnson's game. At some point, he will have to sit down and
think about his future, a future that goes beyond a free camp at Mount
''I don't know what I'm going to do and I don't know what the Celtics
want to do,'' he said. ''I'm not saying I'm trying to break the bank;
I don't know what I'm looking for [in terms of a contract]. But I have
a lot to think about. Right now I'm at the point where I need to get
to the next level. And that means making the playoffs and winning a
championship. I have to look at all my options. I want to win. And I
have to look at what [the Celtics] do. Hey, we could finish 36-46
again. That's something I have to think about.''
A future in Boston?
When Walker's camp is over, he walks toward his car and heads for
Lakeshore Drive. He has said a lot about Pitino, about the options he
has to explore and about the Celtics' loyalty to him. He has also made
one revealing comment:
He wants to have this camp again. Next year. In Boston.