Antoine Walker is close to signing a D-League contract, according to NBA Fanhouse. He could sign the contract as soon as today, and Fanhouse’s Scott Schroeder believes Walker’s willingness to play in the D-League indicates he is more serious than ever about an NBA return.
So what am I supposed to think about this?
Should I be happy Walker’s getting another chance at playing basketball in the United States? Sad about the former Celtic’s fall from grace? Depressed his comeback isn’t on his own terms — that he probably needs an NBA deal more than he wants one? Excited that I might be able to see him play again, when he plays against (or maybe even for) the Springfield Armor (near my hometown)? Ecstatic that the Walker Wiggle could soon be coming to an arena near me? Joyous that Walker has been getting in good shape and finally seems serious about a comeback, finally seems serious about basketball?
The truth is, it’s complicated. On one hand, seeing Walker play in the D-League seems distasteful. I went to a game the other day (the Springfield Armor vs. the Maine Red Claws) and there were approximately twelve people in the stands. The basketball was mediocre at best, most players clearly belong nowhere near an NBA stadium, and the big men were almost all fat (on second thought, maybe Walker’s a perfect fit). In all seriousness, I never would have envisioned Antoine Walker playing in the minor leagues. He was an NBA All-Star! Employee Number Eight! One of my idols growing up.
And now it’s come to this, Walker begging his way onto a D-League squad with a pipe dream of perhaps, maybe, hopefully making an NBA roster again at some point in the near future. He has developed financial problems, and legal problems stemming from said financial problems. A man who made more than $100 million in his career is now struggling to make ends meet. He’s stooping to the D-League, where I recently watched Tiny Gallon’s “epic” post battle with somebody named Kyle Cuffe, who had a very similar build to Eminem’s big black friend in 8 Mile — and probably even less athleticism. The Armor’s backup big man is a guy by the name of Mike Williams. If not seven feet tall, Williams would be a perfect ringer for the placekicker in The Replacements.
And now Antoine Walker’s likely joining these folks in the D-League? When Walker helped lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, I never suspected his career (and life, really) would one day come tumbling apart like a ball of yarn bowled down the hallway. I never suspected there would be a day he’d have to beg NBA teams to offer him a training camp invite, and — when begging didn’t work — that he’d be forced to use the D-League as a proving ground of sorts.
On the other hand, maybe this is Walker’s ticket to getting his life back. I don’t know the full extent of Employee Number Eight’s financial problems, but I suspect an NBA contract — likely the veteran’s minimum of $1.35 million — would be a nice start to fixing them. If Walker has worked himself into game shape, as Marc Stein reported he had begun to over the summer, he still has all the skills to be called up to the NBA. And if Walker does earn an NBA contract, which is clearly his goal, I assume he will be smarter with his money this time around. One more NBA contract, at this point, could change Walker’s entire life. I suppose I should be happy about that prospect.
But I can’t stop thinking about when I was a little kid, playing 5th-6th grade CYO basketball. Whenever my best friend or I hit a clutch shot, we’d break out in our own rhythm-less rendition of the Walker Wiggle. We’d scream, pound our chests and move our shoulders up and down as if listening to music. And if you didn’t appreciate our showmanship, learned partially from watching Antoine Walker, you should have at least respected our passion, also learned partially from watching Antoine Walker.
Back when I was twelve and ‘Toine was my idol, I never would have believed ‘Toine would one day be broke, fighting for one more substantial paycheck. But if twelve-year old me had known how ‘Toine’s financial stability would crumble, I imagine he would wish ‘Toine the best. And right now, wishing the best for ‘Toine probably means hoping he excels in the D-League.
Even if none of us ever thought it would come to this.