We’re kicking off a new feature this week on CelticsHub. Every Saturday from now on, we’ll be revisiting a classic Celtics box score (you should expect a liberal interpretation of the word ‘classic’). We’ll start off this week by picking out a silver lining from the horrific, plague-spewing cloud of black basketball death** that was the Rick Pitino years.
On January 7, 1998, Antoine Walker went off for 49 points in a 110-108 loss to the Washington Wizards. Though ‘Toine would make many more shots in his Celtics’ career (and miss even more than that), he never bettered this point total. And because it’s ‘Toine, we should also point out that he never again took this many shots in a single NBA game. Winning the NBA title with Miami in 2006 must have been nice, but on this 36-shot evening… ‘Toine was never more himself.
WASHINGTON 110 BOSTON 108
Join me after the jump and we’ll dig into this one and Walker’s debut in the NBA D-League.
There was a lot of junk on the Celtics’ roster this night.
But even after the fruitless tankfest the year before that failed to land Tim Duncan, with Walker still young and in possession of an incredible variety of skills for a player his size (I remember comparisons to Magic Johnson), there was legitimate reason for excitement. The Celtics had a very young Chauncey Billups under their control, soon-to-be defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen off the bench, and some guy named Paul Pierce on their draft horizon that June. It’s not unreasonable to believe that had the Celtics played their cards right, they could have been a championship-quality team a few years down the road.
Of course, we all know how that turned out.
More notes from the box score:
Interestingly enough, Billups and Walker were both involved in terrible trades, although they happened almost a decade apart and were masterminded by different GMs, one of whom displayed a legendary impatience with his personnel and a comical reliance on a college-style trapping defense and the other of whom is Danny Ainge.
As we all know by now, Antoine Walker is trying to battle his way back from financial and basketball oblivion. It’s hard to wish him anything but success in that endeavor. Though he never fully capitalized on his talent, he always displayed a certain pride at wearing the green and white and connected strongly with the New England fans. Last night, Walker put up 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists (sounds like good Antoine, doesn’t it?) for the Idaho Stampede of the D-League. Whether or not he can slip onto an NBA roster in a 10th man role remains to be seen, but personally, I’m hoping he does. It’d be interesting to see ‘Toine step back onto the Boston floor one more time, no matter what uniform he was wearing.
Additional Antoine Walker Coverage:
In an era of misery for Celtics fans – Walker’s rookie year marked the second of six straight losing seasons devoid of playoff appearances – ‘Toine brought an energy for the game that manifested itself in his level of effort and presence on the court. Some of that energy may have been misguided, but Walker was literally always there. Of his first 10 non-lockout NBA seasons, Walker played less than 77 games zero times, leading the league in total minutes once and logging more than 40 minutes per night three times. His occasional big shots and exaggerated shimmy dances thereafter provided what little flair for the dramatic and swagger the Celtics had. While he went through rough patches with the coaches, with the team, with Celtics fans, he always played hard and was always a threat to do something…interesting, at the absolute minimum. Or to pour in 30-plus points, which he did 60 times as a Celtic.
More later on today as we get ready for Celtics-Bobcats.
**To this day, I suspect Pitino was a Laker double-agent.