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Bob Ryan Castrates Antoine
By Bob Ryan, Globe Columnist, 07/19/98
M.L. Carr, I have but one thing to say: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea
maxima culpa. Can you ever forgive me?
I've blamed you for everything from Buckner's Boo-Boo to the No-Name
Storm, but most of all I blamed you for being a permissive, coddling,
all-too-chummy overseer of one Antoine Walker. I had naturally assumed
that a tougher, more forceful, more realistic coach would have taught
this young man more of the facts of NBA life than you did during the
1996-97 season, Mr. Walker's first in the NBA.
I now know I was wrong. The simple fact of the matter is that Antoine
Walker is a punk.
What I once only feared has now been revealed to be the gospel truth.
Antoine Walker is one of those great jokes of nature, for atop a body
capable of wondrous feats on the basketball floor sits the head of a
fool. It is a supremely cruel and dangerous mix.
Antoine Walker is such an arrogant, misguided, yes, punk, that there is
nothing either M.L. Carr, Rick Pitino, or The Pope could do with this
kid. There is nothing left to teach him because it is quite obvious he
is of the firm opinion that, 25 days before his 22d birthday, he knows
all he will ever need to know about what it takes to be a true success
in the NBA.
There is much good to be said about Antoine Walker on the basketball
floor. At 6 feet 8 inches, he is almost always too quick for the man
trying to guard him. He has both inside and outside scoring
capabilities. There is no question that he is the only legitimate post
player the Celtics have, and that he can also hurt people with threes.
He is death in transition. Getting his own shot is no problem. He is
truly expert at making chicken salad out of chicken excrement.
And whatever his nightly scoring situation, be it 10 for 15 or 3 for 18,
he never shirks his rebound duties. He is far and away the best Celtics
rebounder, and that counts for a lot.
Flip side: he is an erratic defensive player, as befits a
soon-to-be-22-year-old. He has atrocious shot selection, and atrocious
judgment in general, as befits a soon-to-be-22-year-old. With his skill,
he should be more than a 42 percent shooter. With his skill, he should
not be leading the league in turnovers (292, or 48 more than the
volatile Allen Iverson, who we can conservatively estimate handles the
ball twice as much). For someone who gets himself to the line as often
as he does (473, or
There's more. He has a big mouth on the floor, and the officials make
him pay for itto the tune of 30 technicals in two seasons. Worse yet,
his juvenile mugging is classless. It irritates opponents - yes,
Antoine, people on other clubs really do hate you - and it embarrasses
the organization. He is the most gifted player on the team, but in no
sense is he a leader, as, it should be pointed out, likewise befits a
Consider a few of the things Antoine Walker told our Michael Holley this
1. Let me tell you, 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.
One borderline All-Star appearance at age 21 and now he's a veteran
2. Pierce is a good player... 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
So he's a GM, too? He wanted Rick Pitino to draft Kentucky buddy Nazr
Mohammed, who was such a valued prospect he went 29th in the draft.
3. Maybe if he [Rick Pitino] said me being there would have made
everybody else come, then maybe I would have made that sacrifice.
He's already failed the preliminary test of leadership. When you know
you're the best player on the team, you shouldn't have to be told that
your presence would be a positive influence, and you shouldn't have to
be begged to do anything that's good for the team.
4. You work hard to get at a certain level ... And I can't maintain it
like this when my coach isn't behind me.
Huh? Is this the same coach who declared on his own television show,
apropos of the Walker contract situation, that ''The most important
person in this organization isn't me; it's Antoine Walker?''
5.Right now I'm at the point where I need to get to the next level. And
that means making the playoffs and winning the championship ... I have
to look at all my options ... Hey, we could finish 36-46 again. That's
something I have to think about.
Oh, please. He's not yet 22 and he's played a scant two years. He's
trying to come off sounding like a worthy 10-year veteran who has paid
true dues, rather than a snotty punk who has no idea what it takes to
win a championship at this level. Perhaps if he came to an offseason
camp or two, he might pick up a tip or two that might enhance his game.
But, of course, he's never going to lower himself to do that, because
veteran All-Stars don't do such things.
It is clear that anyone giving Antoine Walker $70 million, $80 million,
$90 million, or $100 million dollars, guaranteed, must understand that
he will immediately take it as a validation of his greatness. He feels
no need for improvement. He is, after all, a veteran All-Star.
He is a classic product of the modern basketball system. He is an AAU
baby who has never worked at anything other than basketball in his life,
and who has only met one coach - Rick Pitino - who has ever told him
''no'' about anything. He is arrogant and clueless about his profession.
He is merely a punk who can play a little basketball. Join me in wishing
him well at his next destination.
Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist.