You could call Walker a lot of things. He was a smart player, but he honestly didn't take care of himself, and he had a lot of things going on off the court that we later found out. He could have been great. For awhile he was the franchise, and for awhile he gave us hope before KG and Ray came to town in 2007. I was a big fan of Walker. I really thought Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker needed one more player to get over the hump in the early 2000's. They had reached the East Finals in 2002 but lost to the Nets, and they also fell short in the second round the following season at the hands of New Jersey again. During that second round series Danny Ainge took over as General Manager of the Boston Celtics. I was happy to see one of the old guys running the show, especially after the Pitno years.
Danny's first big move as Celtics GM may have been unpopular for most. It was for me.In the fall of 2003 Danny traded Walker to the Mavs. The Celtics didn't get an all-star talent back in the process. What they got back was an injury prone center in Lafrentz, and a spot up shooter Chris Mills,and a young promising player in Jiri Welsch. Danny was spinning the story that Welsch was something special. He was for a second. As for the Mavs this is what they said about Walker when he arrived.
"It's not every day that a 27-year-old All-Star becomes available," said Donnie Nelson, Dallas' president of basketball operations. "We feel we've got one of the most versatile coaches in the league. To add a player of Antoine's ability just gives (coach Don Nelson) more options to work with."
This is what Danny said on air,and his other remarks after the deal.
Between his jobs with the Suns and Celtics, Ainge was a TV analyst and he said on the air he did not like Walker's game. Since joining Boston, he's said he had no intention of trading Walker.
Now Walker, a three-time All-Star who averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds last season, goes from playing alongside one high scorer in Paul Pierce to being joined by four: Dallas' nucleus of Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash and Michael Finley, plus Jamison, who was added in August.
The Mavericks, the NBA's highest-scoring team the last two years, have now upgraded a roster that won 60 games and reached the Western Conference finals last season. It also counters the changes made by fellow Western Conference opponents San Antonio, Sacramento and the Lakers.
"Dallas likes to take chances and make things happen. They're on the cusp of winning a championship right now," Ainge said. "I can't sit here and tell you that we're an NBA championship team right now. I just don't see that. But I'm not satisfied winning 44 games."
Looking back, Ainge didn't make the best move. He could have gotten a better deal right? Walker was an all-star at the time. But he also didn't look bad after Walker had a below average season with Dallas. The Celtics in the 2004 season only won 36 games. Danny wanted to win more than 44, but he would have to wait until the 2005 season when he brought in Doc Rivers,and some other veterans like Gary Payton. In that same season Danny also traded for Antonie Walker. When he did that I thought it was the oddest thing. Danny had such a dislike for Walker, and I was shocked that he went that route. The Celtics ended up winning their first Atlantic title in about 15 years,and the first in the Pierce and Doc era.
The Celtics were ousted in the first round against the Pacers in seven games, and it was Walker's final game in a Celtics uniform. Walker the following season played for the Heat in a key role off the bench. He got a NBA title that season with the Heat. After that season Walker went down hill. He only played two more NBA seasons after 2006. He played his last NBA game in 2008. He's attempted a few comebacks in the D-League with no results. Were also aware of Walker's outside problems that probably ruined his career. The Walker and Pierce era was short and sweet. I really wanted something more out of that era of Celtics ball. Maybe things would have been different if Danny didn't trade him the first time,or if Danny made a more adequate deal. I felt like Danny jumped the gun because of his ego on that one.
In the end the Celtics became a powerhouse years later in the East as we know. I still remember the joy of the 2002 season. It felt like a new start, but it didn't last. After so many years of disappointment. It felt like things were changing. But they did eventually, but that's all in the past. Who knows, maybe if Danny stuck with Walker, we may have never seen banner 17 at all. Maybe Danny doesn't trade for KG, and sometimes things just happen for the best, and they workout later on as it did for the Celtics when trading for KG and Ray, and then raising banner 17 the following season.
Looking back at this trade ten years later. It brings up the feeling of nostalgia without a doubt. I'm glad he was here even if it felt like it was for a short time. In the long run it also worked out for Danny and for us. Walker played his best ball for us, and will never forget what he gave us. He'll never have his number retired in Boston. But he won't be forgotten.