Daily Babble: The Saddest State of One Minny Celtic

In the midst of last night's reunion affair between the Celts and Wolves, as expected, one couldn't help but take note of the myriad of former C's running around to the applause of the Target Center crowd.

Al Jefferson looked frustrated for three quarters -- credit the Celts for doubling Jefferson most of the way and forcing the Wolves' poor shooters to beat them, which they largely could not -- but turned it up down the stretch.

Ryan Gomes had a typical Ryan Gomes game: a quiet 13 points and 6 boards.  And lots of hustle.

Sebastian Telfair and Gerald Green did what Bassy and Gerald do.  Bassy shot and missed with regularity (1-for-8 from the field), and Gerald rode the pine.

But perhaps the saddest and the most unsung former Celtic image of the night was that of a man a couple more seasons removed from his days in the Kelly green and white.

Even if Pat Riley was right about nothing else this season (debatable either way, but loyal reader Who will have you believe this is the case), he was right on the money about one particular point: Antoine Walker is in a sorry shape.

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The most stunning part of watching Walker play last night was realizing after a while -- and some Internet research for verification -- that he is only 31 years old.  How quickly his body has aged and his skills have atrophied is truly something to behold.

Yes, Walker has been regarded on the downside of his career for a couple of seasons now, so perhaps this doesn't come as particularly new news.  But he was at least both a significant and productive part of the Miami title run in 2006, and even though his game really started to take that final major dive last season, at no point did he ever look the way he does now.

Antoine Walker's physique barely even resembles that of a basketball player anymore.  It was clear last night that he is even more horrendously out of shape that Pat Riley billed him to be, as he has picked up significant weight over the years and spent his 14 minutes on the court having immense trouble getting up and down the floor.

Really, this shouldn't be all that upsetting.   Walker's days in Boston are long gone, and the team only went so far as the Eastern Conference Finals while he was in town, and even that happened only once.  That said, as I wrote back in October when I nostalgically mused about the possibility of Walker returning to Beantown as a reserve, this is a guy who may always mean something to Celtics fans.  He wasn't the best, and he certainly wasn't the brightest during his days in town.  But in a tough era of Celtics basketball, he played hard every night and always wore his heart on his sleeve.  His is the classic case of the individual who came to Boston a cocksure kid and left a far more focused man, and the learning process that he experienced under the watchful eyes of the Celtics' faithful for the better part of a decade is one that isn't easy to forget.  He was a big part of the face of this team for a long time, and he did do much to endear himself to the fans toward the end of his tenure in town.

Part of the result of this is that, despite the fact that he went to Miami and won a title, and the fact that he fell out of shape completely of his own accord, there is something unsettling about seeing 'Toine in such a reduced form.  This is the man who used to be the concurrently enthralling and frustrating swingman in a power forward's body.  Frustrating because he would insist on playing out on the perimeter and wouldn't use his size to as much of an advantage as he sometimes should have.  Enthralling because he was capable of doing much of what he liked to do.  He could shoot the ball with some touch, although not always with the greatest selection.  He had a very nice touch passing the ball.  He was even deceptively quicker than expected (albeit not actually quick) for a man of his physical stature.

Now, he's just a scrub in a body slightly less refined than that of Glen Davis.  He doesn't have that athleticism that belied his appearance, and the appearance is worse than ever.  He can do little towards attacking the rim, he can't get to rebounds as effectively as he once did, and even his shooting touch has suffered a marked decline (he is shooting 37 percent from the field this year).

To think that this is a guy who recently had his agent suggest that he would welcome a trade to a contending team for whom he could play big minutes is utterly baffling.

And it's too bad, really.  Because he could have been so much better, and he could have done it for so much longer.

But all that said, for better or for worse, Antoine Walker will always be represented by the shimmy in this fan's heart. 

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