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re:Antoine is long gone

Nice posts this weekend by everyone. As far as I'm concerned, Antoine
Walker is long gone. Paul Gaston is no longer going to break the bank on
a kid so deeply despised by the Globe's respected sports columnists, who
in Gaston's mind probably fairly represent the general views of most
Boston fans. No doubt Gaston also gets a fair amount of unsolocited
advice from his prep school friends and their wives, who whisper in his
ear about how "ignorant" and "savage" Antoine's wiggle looks.

Yet having said all this, I personally have no problem with Bob Ryan and
Will McNuggethead's recent articles, no matter how odd-sounding was
their vitriol at Antoine Walker for "playing GM" (as if they don't!).
While for me it's a sad moment (my hands have been shaking a bit), I
nevertheless feel in general that when local sportswriters trash these
young, hugely paid young men, it serves as a useful counter-weight for
the average working-class fan. That is, it helps us put a pro basketball
player's life in balanced perspective to know that it "goes with the
job" for these young men to have their names unfairly dragged through
the dirt in the morning papers, not to mention facing enormous game
pressures, risk excruciating injuries etc. As far as I'm concerned, it's
healthy for both players and fans to have sometimes rabid sportswriters
like Ryan/Shaughnessy around to check the ego and hubris of modern pro
athletes. The glib, mean-spiritedness of these articles remind us that
even athletes face emotional ups and downs during their careers, and it
helps counterbalance our very real jealousy about a player's wealth
vs.education level.

Plus, there's a HUGE difference between editorializing (Ryan,
Shaughnessy, McNugget) and presenting opinions as fact (Peter May).
Every reader can tell that an opinion is an opinion. For me, "slander"
only occurs  within the pretext of neutral, factual reporting. In his
cowardly yet highly successful, rabble-rousing article of 5 July, Peter
May casually claimed that "almost everyone showed up" to Pitino's
optional camp, but specifically mentioned only one player (Pervis) who
was actually there. So some listmembers asked where in the heck were
Mercer, Anderson, Pierce or Barros and why were they above reproach? And
if the summer workout such a big deal, why didn't Pitino 1) personally
ask AW to attend and/or 2) criticize him for not attending the previous
year? Incidentally folks, what Pitino actually said in reply to May's
leading question was this:  ''Am I upset? No, not really. Am I
disappointed? Yes, I am. On one hand, he's been with me so long now that
he knows what I want. But on the other hand, he's the captain of this
team, and if you're the captain, you should be at these kinds of things
and lead by example. We invited him to come. He didn't come.''  It was
from this relatively balanced reply that May fashioned the next day's
story line:  "Almost everyone showed up (...) Antoine Walker did not
attend, which again called into question his future in Boston, if for no
other reason than his coach is not pleased about it..."   In retrospect,
I think Pitino would have been wise to have just told Peter May: "No

Lastly, this weekend's Globe diatribes have at least opened a
window-of-opportunity for Pitino to commiserate with Walker about how
easy it is to have your quotes taken out of context by the press.
Personally, I would have been far more disappointed with Antoine Walker
had he told Michael Holley that "Pierce sounds like a guy who can step
in right away and start", knowing that his friend and teamate Walter
McCarty was working his butt off this summer to win that job. For me,
that was an act of basic integrity and loyalty on Walker's part. Please
correct me if I'm wrong, but I've NEVER heard Walker criticize a teamate
no matter how bad they played or inexperienced they were last year
(Remember the entire original starting five last year -Walker, Travis,
Ron, Chauncy, Walter- had totalled a whopping 24.1ppg the year before.
You can't expect to win games in the NBA with a team like that). In this
sense, I think that once Toine and Pierce become teamates, they will get
along fine and bring out the best in each other. I don't want to side
too much with the moronic punk Antoine Walker, but Pierce could in fact
provide valuable bench scoring as a classic Celtics sixth man and, yes,
the Celtic's biggest, gaping need is for big men. Some listmembers have
called Antoine a selfish jerk, but the Holley article IMO showed a young
guy whose ingrained standards of loyalty run so naively deep that it
ends up hurting him, particularly when a father figure (Rick Pitino)
doesn't return the courtesy (i.e. telling the media that Walker is
demanding too much money etc).   If Pitino cares about Walker as a
person, I think he should reach out to the kid and his mother
prontissimo. He should tell Antoine 1) that handling media criticisms is
part of life's learning process; 2) trust that many veteran Boston
Celtics fans aren't so easily swayed by the shilly shally daily views of
the Boston Globe's crusty, doughy, milquetoast reporters;  3)  trust
Pitino will soon tell  his side of the story as forcefully as he can to
both the media and Paul Gaston

But I think it's too late. You've got to admit, AW would make a great
villain playing on a rival team (especially with his fast improving
scoring and rebounding skills), provided the Celtics can first manage to
get competitive with said rival.  In a trade/transfer, I'm hoping the
Celtics will at least get another double-double player like Dikimbe
Mutombo, but it seems most likely that Toine will  trade addresses with
34-year-old Scottie Pippen, who the Bulls will we wise to dump if MJ
retires (smart teams rebuild). As for the Vin Baker's and Shareef's,
they are deservedly the toasts of their town (unlike Antoine), so IMO
fuhgettabout ever acquiring them. Dream on.

I rooted hard for the Celtics even when they turned into the
Clippers-East (signing Dominique Wilkins etc) so I won't quit now. Ron
Mercer has the upside of Dominique (a multiple NBA scoring champ, future
Hall of Famer after all) in terms of elegant showmanship plus
average/mediocre passing and rebounding.  I can live with Mercer
highlights and 40-48 wins a year. But dare I say it, Antoine Walker at
age 22 has the fierce competiveness, loyalty to teamates, dedication to
every aspect of the game (rebounding, passing, steals), and talent to
develop into one of the two or three most explosive and feared NBA
players (along with Shaq) over the next decade.  Like I said, he'll make
a fabulous villain going head-to-head against the 6-7 Paul Pierce if we
ever meet in the first round of the playoffs.  Always look on the bright
side, I guess.