Employee #8 is in the House
January 15, 2005
The bus was lost. The driver couldn't find the FleetCenter and traffic was a mess, a typical Friday night in Boston.
"I didn't even know where he was taking us. I don't know where we where," said Antoine Walker, who returned to a familiar playground last night, the FleetCenter, a place he called home for seven seasons.
The bus pulled in at 6:10 p.m., and Walker looked like the mayor of Boston, shaking hands and exchanging embraces on his way to the Atlanta Hawks locker room.
Last night was only the second time he has played in Boston against the Celtics.
"It's a funny feeling," he said. "They are a different team. I'm looking forward to playing. We have four games with the Celtics."
Walker got his sixth straight double-double (21 points and 17 rebounds in 43 minutes), but was 10 of 30 from the floor. "It wasn't nothing they did," Walker said after the Celtics' 106-94 victory. "I missed probably 10 of them, just around the basket. Just easy putbacks and we have to make our foul shots." Walker was 1 for 3 and the Hawks were 15 for 29 from the line.
"He struggled to shoot the ball tonight," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson of Walker. "I mean, he went 10 for 30. He couldn't be happy about that. I mean, he played well, but he has to make other players better. That's the whole thing with being a great player in this league."
Walker's old running mate, Paul Pierce, said, "He's a competitor and he's just trying to win regardless of where he is, and it's just always nice to get back on the court and see him."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers shook his head when asked about Walker forcing shots. "He took 30 shots, is that right? So that's for them to answer, really," said Rivers. "That's not my call. I don't know how they play."
Walker has heard the rumors about a possible return to Boston, but would he like to return here?
"It's interesting," said Walker. He paused with a smile. "Interesting, that's all I will say."
He did say he enjoyed his time here. "I've got a lot of good friends here. It was a good run," said Walker. "I mean, it's always special playing in Boston. But right now I want to play for [the Hawks] and win."
But winning has been a problem for Atlanta. The team is in last place in the Southeast Division with a 6-27 record. The Hawks are the only team in the league without back-to-back wins this season. It's a situation very similar to his first days in Boston.
Nevertheless, Walker has played well. He is Atlanta's go-to guy. Walker has six consecutive double-doubles and 15 for the season. Going into last night's game, he was tied for 26th in the league in scoring (20.2), tied for 14th in rebounding (9.3), and eighth in minutes (40.2).
Walker has talked with Pierce about four times since last season. "We're still very good friends," said Walker. "I watch him and I understand the situation he's in and he understands the situation I'm in. We'll always be friends. If we ever have the opportunity to play on the same team again, I would enjoy it."
Walker said he understands the pressure on Pierce since he left. "I think it's tough when you're a proven scorer," said Walker. "If you have another scorer on the team, it takes the pressure off you. I think he's missing the whole bunch of us - Eric Williams, Tony Battie, Tony Delk, all of us."
Pierce has been the target of boo-birds, more so since Walker left town. "I think Paul has to learn that. It's a new situation. It comes with the territory," said Walker. "This place has so much tradition. He has to continue and make all those new guys tougher."
Two other former Celtics, Kenny Anderson and Delk, are also with the Hawks. Delk, who was traded with Walker from the Celtics to the Mavericks prior to last season, and from the Mavericks to the Hawks this offseason, is out with a left hand contusion/sprain. This is Delk's second visit to the injured list this season. He also missed eight games with a sore right knee . . . Going into last night's game, the Celtics' bench players had outscored their counterparts in 17 of the last 18 games. In the last three, Boston's bench had averaged 45.7 points. One reason was Ricky Davis. In 28 games off the bench, Davis was averaging 14.3 points in 30.6 minutes. Only Dallas's Jerry Stackhouse (14.4) was
averaging more points off the bench. Davis had a game-high 30 last night . . . Red Auerbach was in attendance . . . Recording artist Gavin DeGraw performed after the game. The mini-concert also featured a special appearance by Celtics forward Walter McCarty . . . The game featured two of the worst road teams in the league. The Celtics are 5-14 on the road and haven't won away from the FleetCenter since Dec. 18 at Cleveland, while the Hawks are just 2-13 away from Philips Arena . . . The Celtics family, from owners to fans, raised more than $250,000 for victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia. Pierce and Gary Payton gave $19,000, $1,000 for every assist in games against the Pistons (Jan. 7) and Bulls (Jan. 8) . . . Tom Gugliotta was ill and was sent home prior to the start of the game . . . The Celtics are off until Wednesday, when they host the Bulls at the FleetCenter. Rivers is looking forward to the break in the schedule. "It's big. It's nice to have because we are young, that makes it great," he said. "After that we have about three weeks to the [All-Star] break. It gives us the chance to set up what we want to do for a run into the break. Hopefully, this helps us."