Employee #8 Reminds Pitino of Magic Johnson


October 17, 1997

There were no qualifiers. There were no claims of being misunderstood and misinterpreted. Earlier this week, Rick Pitino compared Antoine Walker to one of the greatest players in NBA history. Yesterday, following the Celtics' afternoon practice, the coach repeated himself.

Pitino's statement: Walker reminds him of a young Magic Johnson.

"Yes, I think early in the career, he has the vision Magic had on the break," Pitino said of the second-year forward. "At that size 6 feet 9 inches, he's a gifted ballhandler. I don't think you'll see Magic with seven turnovers as Walker had Wednesday night in an exhibition game against the Nets. But once Antoine works that out, I think you'll see that he has the vision of Magic as far as his passing is concerned."

Pitino would like Walker to have at least two assists for each turnover. Because he is such a strong rebounder, Walker has the ball often and frequently leads the Celtics' break. Clearly, he is most dangerous when in transition. "He's a great young player," Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens gushed. "I think we all know that."

What everyone in the NBA doesn't know is that Walker's listed height may be inaccurate. He is closer to 6-10 than 6-9.

Head of class

According to Pitino, newcomer Bruce Bowen has picked up the coach's system faster than anyone else. That includes Walker and Ron Mercer, who are familiar with the style from their days at the University of Kentucky. Why is Bowen, a 6-7 guard-forward, so comfortable? Did he study the inner workings of Pitino Ball during the summer? "Study? Nah, I learned it at the same time as everyone else," he said. But there are two other factors. One is that Bowen is in shape. "He's always in perpetual motion," Pitino said. The other is a social skill. "When you don't know something," Bowen said, "the best thing to do is listen."

Big shoes to fill

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