To See Him Play is to Imagine: Bill Walker Player Capsule

Jay KingCorrespondent IMay 23, 2009

BOSTON - JANUARY 14:  Bill Walker #12 of the Boston Celtics takes a shot over Trenton Hassell #44 of the New Jersey Nets at TD Banknorth Garden January 14, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Nets 118-86. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

To see him play is to imagine.  

Imagine a player testing the limits of gravity.  Imagine how high he could fly if he hadn't already had two major knee surgeries.  Imagine how un-guardable he could be with a reliable jumpshot and improved ball-handling skills.

Imagine him winning dunk contests, getting to the free throw line at will, and attacking the basket with the same balance of ferocity, creativity, and athleticism once seen in the Human Highlight Reel himself, Dominique Wilkins.  

Most of all, as a Celtics fan, I imagine Bill Walker one day rounding out the rest of his game to match his world-class athletic ability. 

This year, throughout training camp, news had been that Walker had a fearlessness about him that belied his youth and allowed Walker to challenge the Big Three in practice every day. 

Whereas most players, understandably, come into the league hesitant to challenge NBA veterans, and especially hall-of-fame caliber players like Pierce, Allen, and Garnett, Doc raved about Walker, who, from the second training camp started, went toe-to-toe with anyone who stepped in his path to the basket.

Hearing that, I was intrigued.  I'd heard great things about Walker in high school, then watched as he struggled through recovery from knee surgery and playing second fiddle to Michael Beasley while at Kansas St. 
I went to the first preseason game of the year, when the Celtics played the 76ers, and I was on the lookout for the promising rookie.  I don't remember the score of that game, or even whether they won or lost, but I sure do remember Bill Walker's time on the floor. 

Before Walker was in the game a minute, he caught an alley-oop from halfcourt, electrifying the crowd, which had been completely quiet the rest of the game.  A couple plays later, Walker caught a pass on the baseline, took one step without a dribble, and dunked right on top of Theo Ratliff. 

He ended his 11-minute stint that day with a couple post-ups, one of which he finished for a layup and another on which he drew a foul.  In 11 positive minutes that day, Walker's tough, attacking manner of play was displayed and I became a big fan.  
When Walker got into a shoving match with Tracy McGrady a couple games later, I was sold.  This kid had the heart and scrappiness to go along with his athleticism.  I became a big member of the Bill Walker Fan Club. 

Realistically, I thought maybe Walker could crack the defending champion's rotation as an athletic energy-man.  I knew he wouldn't play a lot of minutes because the Celtics are set at swing-man with Pierce and Allen and Doc Rivers rarely gives minutes to rookies, but I thought he could certainly make an impact. 

It wasn't to be for Bill.  His play was too raw for a contending team, and Walker split time between the Celtics and the NBDL's Utah Flash.  He earned a few minutes when the injury bug reached its low point, but other than that Walker never really made his presence felt during this season.  
In the future, though, I look forward to being wowed by Bill Walker day in and day out.  At some point, he will work his way into the rotation and, when he does, he will contribute.  He is too scrappy and too athletic not to.

The sky is truly the limit for Bill, especially if he can put the work into developing a mid-range game and better ball-handling.  Just imagine how much the Celtics could use an improved Bill Walker.

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