"The Atlanta Hawks are dangling former Celtic Antoine Walker as trade bait, and the Celtics are interested.
``We'd love to have him,'' a team official said. ``The Eastern Conference is wide open and Antoine could put a team over the top.''
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and director of basketball operations Danny Ainge want Walker, said the source. Walker was upset when he was traded, but would welcome a return to Boston. ``Antoine would be on a bus tonight. He'd walk here,'' said the source. ``Boston has a chance to make the playoffs. Atlanta (5-20) has virtually none.'' "
``Ainge would love to have him back,'' said the source.
But, as usual, the problem is money. Walker is making $14.6 million and in order to offset a contract like that the Celtics would have to deal players with contracts who approximate that figure. The 76ers, said the source, are ``desperate to get Walker.'' Philly coach Jim O'Brien [news] coached Walker when both were with the Celtics. The Pacers, without suspended star Ron Artest, are interested in Walker, too.
Atlanta's holding the trump card. ``They're going to deal (Walker) by Feb. 20,'' said the source.