NBA D-League Rumors: Is Antoine Walker Signing a Positive Move for the D-League?

Keith SchlosserAnalyst INovember 30, 2010

CHICAGO - JANUARY 29:  Antoine Walker #24 of the Minnesota Timberwolves walks up the court after being called for a foul against the Chicago Bulls January 29, 2008 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

If the rumors are true, former NBA star Antoine Walker is close to signing with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA’s 16-team Development League.

While Walker does have one thing in common with most of the league’s players (he is hoping to catch on with a NBA team), their circumstances are undeniably different.

A bevy of legal issues has made Walker almost an afterthought of the NBA. While his last NBA stint was the 2007-08 season with the Timberwolves, Walker is most known for being the starring attraction of the Celtics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as for winning a championship with the Heat in 2006.

Knicks fans will certainly remember Walker, however, as the sharpest dagger in their hearts (aside from Reggie Miller) during his playing days. Although his Celtics did not battle the Knicks deep into the playoffs like the Pacers did, Walker still made his presence felt. He consistently provided the Knicks with heartbreak.

Coming through in the clutch, Walker could always be depended on to hit those stifling three-pointers late in games to pester the Knicks.

Alas, that was often during the regular season, but the three-time all-star certainly made his impression as a thorn in the side of Knicks fans felt to this very day.

Boasting career averages of 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, there’s certainly the chance that Walker, who sources say “looks as fit as he has for some time,” could build on his experience and knowledge to be an effective player again.

But is the D-League the place to start his uphill journey back to the NBA?

Bypassing the route of playing overseas to resurrect his career, like his draft classmates Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury have done as of late, Walker will instead reportedly join a league that features some of basketball’s youngest and/or hungriest players.

NBA prospects, who are not interested in attending college during their one-year mandated moratorium, are also encouraged to participant in the D-League.

Not only are all of the D-League’s players fighting for a chance at the NBA, they are also all looking for ways to improve their game (hence, the league’s name). The D-League is the NBA’s minor league of sorts, where players are often there because NBA teams do not feel that they are ready to play at the higher level.

In that regard, however, the league may be a perfect fit for Walker, who failed to gain a training camp invitation from the Bobcats this past fall.

The D-League could be a good opportunity for Walker to showcase his abilities, should he dominate the various prospects using the skills and instincts he perfected during his 12-year career.

However, should he struggle, getting beat by other players, whom have had trouble catching on with NBA teams as well, would in no way be a good look for Walker.

Barring Walker’s intentions, is letting him play beneficial for the D-League? Sure, all the attention regarding Walker’s comeback may provide the league exposure. But does letting a player like him in the league follow through with their mission?

After all, the D-League prides itself on building up young (many more than 10 years younger than the 34-year-old Walker) prospects, helping them hone their skills as they strive for a call-up to the NBA. Since its inception, the D-League has produced solid NBA players such as Matt Barnes, Kelenna Azubuike and Shannon Brown.

In fact, Barnes and Brown, both currently on the championship-defending Lakers, have come to be two fantastic role players, crucial to what makes a team like the Lakers so successful.

Should a former star like Walker catch on a team like that, his value would figure to be from his veteran leadership, not his ability to willingly and effectively fit into a role.

That being said, the D-League has employed the likes of Randy Livingston, a struggling NBA guard, who at 32 became a D-League MVP. His experience prompted his former team, the Stampede (ironically, Walker’s potential team), to hire him as their current head coach.

The Nets recently sent rising star Terence Williams to the D-League as a means of a demotion for disciplinary reasons.

Also making D-League headlines this season is Antonio Daniels, another 12-year NBA veteran who caught on with the league hopeful for a NBA return. He is averaging close to a triple-double during 42 minutes per game through the first three games of the season.

Is it right for players past their prime, like Walker and Daniels, to be eating up minutes originally primed for much younger players, arguably with brighter NBA futures? Whether it is right or wrong, teams are surely to take notice of the bigger and more familiar names.

Should they both succeed, the two could be seeing NBA returns this season.

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