Antoine Walker wants to tell his story. He wants to be a cautionary tale to young NBA players about being immersed in the lifestyle, and how to avoid financial pitfalls similar to those he’s endured over the past decade. The former Celtic attempted to finish his career on his feet, signing with the NBADL, hoping for one final shot. He was passed up.
Still only 37 but six years out of the NBA, Walker wants to contribute something to the league that allowed him to earn millions at such a young age, and perhaps as years pass he can receive the adulation he deserves for helping to resurrect the Celtics.
Paul Pierce was showered with praise last week when he returned to Boston with the Nets after 15 years with the Celtics. Walker and Pierce will always be associated with one another because of the five years they spent as one of the league’s more formidable scoring tandems between 1998-2003.
Walker was asked what the reception would be if he and Pierce walked the streets of Boston together. “Once Paul is retired and done and being able to walk into [TD Garden], you never know, that day is going to come,” Walker said. “What we’ve accomplished and what we were able to do to get the organization back to a stable state where they were competitive and a playoff team, and what he was able to take it to and get a championship, is unbelievable.
“For me, the people in Boston treated me great. I have no complaints. No gripes. One thing you have to understand about Boston, it’s a sports town. There are storied traditions there. People love hard-working, blue-collar guys and that’s what they like and you have to accept that.”
Walker, who earned an estimated $108 million in his career and needed to file for bankruptcy to settle his financial issues, has dabbled as a TV analyst, attended the NBA pre-draft camp last May in hopes of landing a scouting or coaching job, and just finished a documentary on his NBA life for which he is seeking a distributor.
“I want to be close to the game, whether it be coaching, scouting, front office — I’m still working on trying to find the right niche, right fit,” he said. “I’m really trying to be a role model for these young guys, kind of take my story and turn a negative story into a positive story. Just give guys some knowledge of the ups and downs and pitfalls of being in the NBA, making a lot of money, making sure guys make the right decisions with their money, building a financial literacy program to help these guys understand there is life after basketball. I’m really trying to give toward that and I feel like that’s a need. NBA players are a fraternity, so I could be a guy you could learn from, because through my trials and tribulations I have been through a lot on and off the court.”
Walker’s issues have been well chronicled, and for years he shied away from the media and interview requests while his former girlfriend, EvelynLozada, became a fixture on the reality series “Basketball Wives,” explaining how Walker’s financial issues affected their relationship. Walker hasn’t spoken much about the series or his reputation, but has decided to pursue a book deal to explain his side.
“Through the social media that we have today, a lot of people get a false story of what’s going on in your life, so for me it’s been kind of a black cloud over my head,” he said. “I felt like instead of me coming out and just doing an interview or TV show, I think this will give everybody an opportunity to kind of see what’s going on in my life. Sometimes when you hear the real story and it comes from you, it kind of explains things.”
Walker said it was difficult to hear snippets of his life on reality television.
“I was with Evelyn for 10 years and we spent a lot of time together and we got to know each other very well,” he said. “I’m actually very happy for her success. I think reality television is one of the things that has been beneficial to a lot of people. In the beginning I was unhappy with the way she went about doing it. I was going through too many trials and tribulations at the time for her to really . . . I thought we had more of a special bond, but that happens in life. I’m not envious of her. It’s the in thing now and she’s riding the wave of it. But yeah, I think a lot of people may not know the story about that. I’m willing to openly share about that.
“It wasn’t me fighting her or she fighting me. A lot of people sometimes don’t know the stories, but she’s moved on in her life and it seems like things are working out well for her. And as well, I am trying to move on with my life.”
A NEW REGIME
Silver is getting busy plotting league’s future
With commissioner David Stern retiring this weekend, the Adam Silver administration will begin, and there definitely will be an increased international emphasis with the league and perhaps other changes including more involvement by NBA owners.
The question is whether Silver will make the valiant attempt to form a division in Europe. He told the Globe at the Bill Russell statue ceremony in November that the potential cities for teams, such as London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, and Frankfurt, would need to have NBA-caliber arenas and facilities to host games.
Travel has always been a major concern.
“It’s something we’ve talked about for years, and that is bringing NBA franchises not just to London but to other major European cities as well,” said Silver. “Most likely if we were to come to Europe, it would be with a division rather than a single team for ease of logistics, and it’s something we’re going to continue to look at.”
With the rash of injuries in the NBA and an 82-game season that begins in October and carries into April, there’ve been murmurs that the season could be shortened. Some players and team executives were pleased with the 66-game, lockout-shortened schedule in 2011-12. Silver said he will not reduce the number of games.
“We’ve been playing an 82-game season for, I think, roughly 45 years. And I’m not even sure that the injuries this season aren’t a statistical aberration,” Silver said. “There may be more high-profile injuries this year, so of course we’re concerned, and maybe it’s an area we can do better in terms of training techniques and using data to better understand among our teams if there are better ways to rehabilitate players, whether there are better training techniques. So those are things we’re going to continue to look at, but no plans at this time to shorten the season.”
Stern has been credited with resurrecting a league that was a distant third in the major professional sports order when he took over in 1984. For readers born in the 1980s and ’90s, NBA playoff games, including Finals games, were telecast on tape delay before Stern’s arrival. The CBS television package was limited to five games per season, mostly on Sunday afternoon at 3:30.
The league had little international influence and several players were dealing with drug and substance issues, soiling the reputation of the league. When asked about his biggest accomplishment over three decades, Stern was rather humble.
“I don’t have a good answer for that question,” he said last month. “I’ve been knocking myself out for 30 years, and we’ve had some good successes, we’ve had some difficulties, but I think that if you just look to what the modern NBA has become, my greatest accomplishment was in hiring the now 1,200 people that used to be 24 that have taken the league to where it is, and under Adam’s leadership are going to take it to where it’s going, which is higher yet. So I’m either smart or lucky enough to hire very strong people who care deeply about basketball and about the growth of the NBA.”
Stern was able to create parity in the mid-1980s by instituting the draft lottery after the Houston Rockets apparently tanked the 1983-84 season to select AkeemOlajuwon, who later went by the first name of Hakeem. The Celtics, Magic, 76ers, and Jazz have been accused of sacrificing the current season to capitalize on a fruitful 2014 draft. Celtics assistant general manager Michael Zarren has devised a plan that would eliminate the lottery and create a selection process that would prevent teams from “tanking” to increase their chances in the lottery. Stern has been sensitive about the draft process over the years, sometimes being accused of helping out certain clubs with beneficial selections.
“I honestly sometimes don’t even understand the commentary. It’s as though a generation has forgotten why the draft lottery was implemented,” said Stern. “The draft lottery was implemented because there was just too much pressure on the two teams, and the perception was if you could get to the bottom, the perception of the tank, you wouldn’t get the first or the second pick. So we implemented a draft lottery, so now people are saying, OK, the draft lottery is responsible for something. The draft lottery is responsible only for ameliorating the possible side effects of having the same kind of draft that others have.
“In the interim, I think the NHL also adopted a draft lottery. We have tinkered a bit with the draft lottery. At some period of time, we had all of the teams having an equal opportunity in the lottery, and that seemed to be unfair, so we modified it a bit, and then some teams who didn’t have the best odds won in any event. So we made it a little bit more slanted to the worst teams, and I think it’s maybe time to look at the lottery and maybe tinker a little bit more. But we’ll see what Commissioner Silver wants to do on that.
“I was reading about Toronto and Cleveland tanking and I guess somebody forgot to tell their coaches and their players that that’s what the program was because obviously it’s not. So I am much less believing of the media’s take on this than a lot of other people.”
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Wallace, King clear air in postgame meeting
Overshadowed by the return to Boston of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was a short conversation immediately following the Nets’ win over the Celtics between Brooklyn general manager Billy King and Gerald Wallace, who was part of the blockbuster trade in July.
Wallace said he was unhappy about the deal because he heard of the trade watching television with his family. Not only was he upset about being traded to a rebuilding team but he said he was disappointed he never received a call from King, who agreed to the trade on draft night with Danny Ainge.
In the moments following the buzzer, Wallace was greeting some Brooklyn officials when he saw King near the Nets’ bench. They talked.
“Just trying to get an understanding of the situation,” Wallace said. “He was explaining to me how it was going and the reasons for him not being able to reach out to me during the time of the trade. Just a couple of quick words to let me know what the deal was.”
Wallace has been outspoken about his disappointment and had little to say last month about the Nets when the Celtics traveled to Brooklyn for the first time in the regular season. Wallace has two more years on his contract at $10.1 million per season and the Celtics accepting his contract was one of the key parameters of the deal.
Obviously, in the latter stages of his career, Wallace wants to play for a winner and believed the Nets were headed toward being an elite club. He was hurt by the deal and didn’t talk to Ainge until nearly media day. He definitely wanted to have words with King.
When asked whether the conversation eased some tensions, Wallace said, “It really didn’t matter. I’m kind of past it, over it. I am kind of moving on from it and dealing with it.”
There are times before games when players do chat with executives from other clubs who sit courtside and watch players warm up. But in this case, the conversation occurred following the game, just after the Nets edged the Celtics.
“I just saw him. I just hollered at some of the old guys from the [Nets],” Wallace said. “He walked out on the court. He gave me an explanation and a reason about the whole thing, about the trade going down, not really knowing if it was going to happen or not so he didn’t want to be like, ‘We’re about to trade you,’ and then the trade didn’t go down. Like I said, I’m not even worried about it. You just take it how it is and move on.”
Wallace is a proud player who has become the Celtics’ voice of reason in a trying season. He said he felt he deserved more respect from the Nets regarding his exit than finding out about the trade through other sources. Wallace was also annoyed about his trade from Charlotte to Portland in 2010-11, feeling he was discarded as part of the Bobcats’ quest to land in the draft lottery and get a premium pick.
As if the Celtics need any more disheartening news, Courtney Lee is flourishing for Memphis, averaging 14.2 points and shooting 56.4 percent in 12 games, 10 starts. Lee is starting in place of injured Tony Allen and was acquired from the Celtics in the deal for Jerryd Bayless. Lee has two more years on his contract. Jordan Crawford, meanwhile, is averaging 6 points in 15.1 minutes per game for Golden State since he was acquired from the Celtics on Jan. 15.MarShon Brooks has played six minutes over four games for the Warriors . . . NBADL Maine Red Claws coach Mike Taylor has been named coach of the Polish national team. Taylor, who has coached in Germany, will lead Poland in Olympic qualification at the EuroBasket tournament next year in Ukraine . . . Overshadowed by the rash of NBA injuries has been the comeback of Leandro Barbosa from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament sustained in February 2012 with the Celtics. Barbosa was traded to the Washington Wizards in the Crawford deal and never made an appearance with the club. He signed a 10-day contract with Phoenix after Eric Bledsoe required knee surgery, and the Suns signed the speedy point guard for the remainder of the season. Phoenix’s general manager is RyanMcDonough, the former Celtics assistant GM . . . One team that could be in the market for an additional body for the playoff run is the Bobcats, who are in the eighth spot as they hit the West Coast for a road trip. The Bobcats have the expiring contract of Ben Gordon to offer to clubs and could use another rebounder to join Al Jefferson in the paint. Guard Ramon Sessions also has an expiring contract but he has been starting in place of the injured Kemba Walker . . . While the Celtics sent Keith Bogans home while they attempt to deal his $5 million contract before the trade deadline, the 76ers are holding on to an expiring deal in JasonRichardson, who has not played since January 2013 because of knee surgery. The 76ers are also holding on to the expiring contract of Kwame Brown. Holding on to such contracts allows the 76ers to occupy their salary cap without having to use multiyear contracts on players. Philadelphia will be nearly $40 million below the salary cap next year when eight contracts expire. With Richardson and Brown having no trade value, the 76ers are expected to retain their contracts until they come off the books.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.