Rumors of Antoine Walker's potential return to Boston are wrong, but they are telling. And what they have to tell is not about Walker, but about Danny Ainge. Read the analysis in NEWS@.
Rumors of Antoine Walker's return to Boston are greatly exaggerated. However, the rumored transaction reveals a lot more about Danny Ainge than it does about Walker.
The rumor by Peter Vecsey in today's New York Post suggests the Celtics would like to send the Hawks expiring contracts and a first-round pick to retrieve Walker's $14.625 million deal.
It's not going to happen. While Walker has the skills and versatility that the Celtics could really use, in a nutshell, he simply hoists too many threes and has trouble defending both strong power forwards and quick small forwards, even leaving aside the personality clash. Even this year, he ranks 10th in the entire league in three-pointers attempted.
But the more interesting thing behind this rumor is that the Hawks would probably do a trade like this. Their season is going nowhere fast, they are looking to rebuild around youth, and if they can get serviceable rental replacements and a draft pick to boot, without committing any more money for the long-run, they'd be wise to consider it.
Do you realize what that means? It means something about Danny Ainge. existence.
Consider, here are the five major deals that Ainge has spearheaded since becoming GM:
#1: J.R. Bremer and Bruno Sundov for Jumaine Jones
#2: Antoine Walker, Tony Delk for Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, and Dallas's 2004 draft pick #24 (Delonte West)
#3: Chris Mills for Chucky Atkins, Lindsey Hunter, Detroit's 2004 first-round draft pick #25 (Tony Allen)
#4: Tony Battie, Eric Williams, Kedrick Brown for Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm, Michael Stewart
#5: Chris Mihm, Chucky Atkins, Jumaine Jones for Gary Payton, Rick Fox, Lakers' 2005 protected first-round draft pick
The proposed fifth deal involves sending cap filler and a first-round pick. Sending Boston's three expiring deals (Gary Payton, Tom Gugliotta, and Michael Stewart) works cap-wise, but Boston would be foolish to part with Payton in such a manner. Besides which, the Glove would not fit in Atlanta. The Glove stays, for now; if a deal involving a good big man comes along, you do what you do.
The point is that Atlanta would likely leap at such a deal, while Boston wouldn't.
But suppose Boston bit. Then, combining the above four trades with this new fifth one means that the Ainge administration would have pulled off the following in its first year on the job:
Lost: Tony Delk, Tony Battie, Eric Williams, Kedrick Brown, J.R. Bremer, and
Gained: Gary Payton, Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Delonte West, and Tony Allen.
Which lineup looks more imposing to you?
Which group of players do you think any GM in his right mind would prefer?
Ainge will not bring back Walker, and Walker will not come back. But the mere fact that such a deal would likely pass muster with Atlanta is a tremendous indication that Ainge has dramatically increased the talent of his club. Plus the fact that such a deal is NOT GOOD ENOUGH for the Celtics means they are even better than that.
That's the real interesting story behind this Walker red herring: the Celtics are a much more talented team than they were just fifteen months ago. It's just that the standings haven't started to reflect it yet.