The dog days of summer (and the NBA offseason) have arrived. The New York Knicks, who were ready to rebuild the team, have finally formed the bulk of their roster.
With any major player movement all but over, it is time for the Knicks to look ahead to the future, focusing on the good pieces the team has in place.
One of those pieces, Bill Walker, arrived in New York much earlier than just this summer. A midseason acquisition from the Boston Celtics, Walker possesses an abundance of potential that has yet to be unleashed.
Although Walker could end up buried on the Knicks bench behind all their wingmen, he could also experience a breakout season if given the opportunity. A rare bright spot in a rather dismal season, Walker averaged nearly 12 points on 52 percent from the field after joining the Knicks.
In hopes that he will build on his success, here are five steps Walker can take to have a breakthrough season, and eventually become a household name in the NBA.
In actuality, Walker has already completed this first recommended step to success.
As a member of the Knicks' summer squad just a few weeks ago, Walker remained consistent, averaging 12.2 points and three rebounds per game in five contests.
After averaging similar numbers in the regular season, perhaps the Knicks hoped Walker would breakout more so against the seemingly weaker competition.
That being said, his high shooting percentages make him a very efficient player.
Should his consistency continue, Walker could have an easy time completing the next step.
This should obviously be Walker’s No. 1 priority leading up to the season.
Although one would think after the strong showing he had last season that Walker would be guaranteed a spot in the rotation, he is most certainly not. The Knicks already have Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and newcomer Kelenna Azubuike filling up coach Mike D’Antoni’s lineup.
Furthermore, as well as Walker performed in summer league, rookie Landry Fields still happened to outplay him.
However, there are still a couple of things going Walker’s way. Chandler and Azubuike are both coming off season-ending injuries. Gallinari experienced back problems throughout his rookie campaign, and the team has been cautious with him ever since.
If the Knicks have learned anything from D’Antoni’s rotation habits, it’s that no one’s spot is guaranteed. Whether a player is a rookie or a veteran, not playing well means a player will potentially lose his spot.
That should play well into Walker’s favor, as his consistency and unleashed potential could land him in the lineup.
Providing the Knicks with a 10-12 point spurt off the bench night in and night out could eventually lead to his becoming the team’s sixth or seventh man.
Aside from their play on the court, players can become well-known for what they say off the court. Of course, not all of what a player says leads to bad publicity.
Some of the most vocal players in the league (Ron Artest, Shaquille O’Neal) tend to be some of the most popular. Speaking up and showing his lighter side may increase Walker’s popularity.
These days, creating a Twitter account only seems to help one’s cause. C.J. Watson (many fans may still be saying “who?”) recently left the Warriors to sign with the Bulls. He has over 300,000 followers (or in this case, fans, perhaps) because he makes an effort to interact with fans on a daily basis.
Fans may not know it yet, but Walker is quite the animated character. For example the entire world knows what kind of criticism LeBron James is getting for the way he joined the Miami Heat. Michael Jordan himself (whom James has received comparisons to throughout his career) mentioned that he would rather beat the competition, as opposed to joining them, like LeBron did.
Where am I going with this, you ask? In 2008, then Kansas State guard Walker exclaimed that LeBron was un-Jordan-like for passing the ball to his teammates during big playoff moments rather than taking the shot himself.
To view Walker’s quite comical explanation, in addition to other jars and jabs, click here
While an All-Star selection may be more of an honor, and the Skills Competition and Three Point Shootout may require more sound fundamentals, there is no contest more exciting during All-Star Weekend than the Slam Dunk Contest.
Frankly, the Knicks wingman isn’t called Bill “Sky” Walker for nothing.
Walker, whose athleticism has drawn comparisons to a young Vince Carter, has been a high-flying dunker for years.
While he has dunked on the likes of Theo Ratliff and even LeBron James during games before, there is no greater platform than the Slam Dunk Contest for him to strut his stuff.
The contest normally rewards upcoming role players for their promising play, so Walker’s selection in such a contest is directly related to whether or not he breaks through in the Knicks’ rotation.
One thing’s for certain; the contest never fails to catapult participants’ careers and/or popularity, as the likes of Fred Jones, Chris Anderson, and Nate Robinson have all extremely benefited from participating in the past.
This final step is contingent on whether or not his team actually makes the playoffs. However, with Amar'e Stoudemire and company on board, things look promising for Walker and the Knicks (at least in regards to an actual playoff appearance).
Whether or not Walker fully breaks through as a normal rotation guy during the season, he can always be called upon during the playoffs. Whether it is due to injuries, player fatigue, or just a desperate playoff attempt to change strategy, Walker could see some minutes.
What he does with those minutes (how many or few they be) could prove crucial to Walker’s career.
Among the many over the years that have gone from unknown to unsung hero during the playoffs is Tayshaun Prince.
During his rookie season in 2002-03, Prince was not part of the Pistons rotation, having played in just 42 regular season games. However, with his team down 3-1 to the Magic in the first round of the playoffs, a change was needed and Prince was inserted into the lineup. He ended up leading his team to a series win, setting an NBA record for the only player to score more total points in the playoffs than regular season.
Prince was named a full-time starter the following season, and has been a borderline All-Star ever since.
Who knows? Perhaps Bill Walker could be next.
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