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10.18.2008

Bird on Walker: Antoine has to Make Himself a Great Player

11/23/96
Antoine Walker's Rookie Campaign

The Celtics' last superstar small forward thinks the club has another potential superstar at the position. But Larry Bird warns there is still a long way to go before rookie Antoine Walker reaches that level.

"People all over the NBA are telling him he's going to be a great player, but he's got to make himself a great player," said Bird of the 20-year-old Kentucky product. "He's got to stay focused. He can't get caught up in all that other stuff."

There was little doubt from the first time anyone saw Walker play as a pro that a) he had the talent and b) he needed guidance from a Larry Bird.

"I haven't been able to work with him as much as I'd like to, but I'll do more as we go along," said Bird, who is scheduled to leave town today, do some scouting and rejoin the club later (perhaps on a road trip).

"I can't talk to him too much about what he does away from the court, but I've tried to tell him that even if he really works on his game he'll still have plenty of time to do whatever else he wants.

"But that's something that everyone goes through when they first get to the NBA. I went through it, too, and Antoine's especially young. He'd just be a junior in college if he stayed in.

"I just think we're going to have to stay on him. If we do, it can really pay off. You don't see too many guys come in with the skills he has on the offensive end and the way he can play defense, too. He's really scrappy. But some of the guys who don't get to play too much are pushing him in practice, and I don't think he understands that yet. I've told him I went through the same thing with M.L. (Carr). M.L. used to push me really hard in practice, but what it did is make me a better player."

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