Josh Boone shouldn’t have jumped. He should have known better. The split second he looked up and saw Bill Walker coming full speed down the lane should have been enough for Boone to remember rule number one of the road: When a truck’s coming through, get your ass out of the way.
But by jumping to try to block Walker’s dunk, Boone learned a lesson we Celtics fans already know…
It rarely takes long for Bill Walker to let his presence be known.
The first game of his career — albeit a preseason game — Walker wasted no time in throwing down a monster alley-oop from Gabe Pruitt. The very next play, Walker leapt up and over Theo Ratliff, taking Theo’s dignity with a belly-to-belly dunk that left the UMass-Amherst crowd roaring its approval. Celtics fans were giddy; never did they think their second-round pick would be so aggressive or so oozing with potential.
But potential is still all Walker has shown. Despite flashes of brilliance and a highlight reel dunk in just about every game he’s ever entered, the 6’6″ high-riser has never been able to crack Doc Rivers’ rotation.
If it were up to the fans – or, specifically, me – things might be a little different.
I’ve always been impressed by Walker’s game. He still has a raw, unpolished offensive repertoire, but he understands his limitations. He knows he’s out on the court to dunk the basketball and get easy buckets, and doesn’t stray from that role. He’s fearless, aggressive, and always in attack mode. He takes smart shots, moves well without the basketball, and always seems to produce whenever he gets a chance to play.
With his heady play and athletic body, Walker shot 62.1% from the floor last season. Granted, it was in very limited time and not a large sample size, but it wasn’t at all a fluke that Walker shot the ball so well. When a player always attacks the basket and doesn’t settle for outside jumpers, he tends to shoot a high percentage from the field.
But Walker, to this point in his career, has never earned any substantial minutes. In fact, if there’s been one thing I’ve truly been disappointed by this season (besides the inordinate amount of injuries), it’s the big step backward Bill Walker has taken.
I know most of it is due to Walker’s torn meniscus that kept him out of action for the beginning of the season, but I thought for sure that he would take a big leap this year towards becoming a real contributor. I thought a year of experience combined with Walker’s high basketball IQ and otherworldly athleticism would equate to a spot in Boston’s lineup, a chance to spell Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for a few minutes every game.
Instead, he’s gotten more or less no time at all. He’s even been supplanted by J.R. Giddens as the young, athletic small forward who gobbles up garbage time minutes.
In my eyes, Walker is substantially more advanced than Giddens as a basketball player and far more ready to contribute. If he gets a chance to play extended minutes, I’m convinced Walker can have an impact on the Celtics.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe his highlight dunks are simply blurring my vision and making me expect more out of Walker than I should. Maybe injuries will always derail his career. Maybe he couldn’t help the team any more than he already does as a late-game pogo stick. Maybe he’ll never become the player I expect him to be.
But I sure would love to see him get a chance.