Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Employee Number Hate

(note – this is being posted with the understanding that the Toine trade is not yet official)

The misguided experiment that was “Antoine Part Deux” has finally concluded, and our man is set to depart in yet another controversial Ainge trade that will have a vocal segment of Celtics nation whining for the next six months - “that’s all you could get for him?”

I hate to break it to the lemmings, but we’re lucky to get anything, and in some ways we’d have probably been better off just letting him walk. Credit Danny’s fear of public pillory for demanding something in return, as he knew full well that the final analysis would expose the fact that he squandered a first rounder for 3 weeks of good publicity and a thousand more people in the stands.

As of this writing, the deal appears to be the NBA equivalent of a pity date - a couple second rounders, a pointless swingman who will probably be cut, and a Euro-leaguer who can’t get off the bench playing for Spain. The only thing clear to me is that Mark Bartelstein has more clout in the league then I ever suspected, and he likely owes Ainge a blowjob for setting his main man Antoine up with an extra million and a half a year.

And that’s the thing, when it comes down to it, this whole Antoine-FA fiasco has been the Sturm and Drang of a highly motivated agent trying to spare his client from the embarrassment of being exposed as a has-been by the Darwinian realities of the NBA salary structure. Can you imagine any other 19/9 guy meeting the deafening silence that Antoine experienced the second he hit the free agent market? Why is it that this supposed top-20 NBA player couldn’t even get a solid commitment for a mid-level offer while Shareef Abdul-Rahim, a similar player who in nine seasons has never even made the playoffs, was courted by nearly every major player in the FA hunt?

The answer is simple – Everyone in the league knows that Antoine Walker is not a very good basketball player. His weaknesses are well documented - he is slow, can’t shoot, can’t play defense, doesn’t make very good decisions and has maybe the worst shot selection in the league. As his only real suitor, Pat Riley is taking a reasonable gamble that Antoine will provide some kind of rebounding and passing help in the front court, with the understanding that the Heat will live and die on the backs of Shaq and Wade. My guess is that the Heat will have a similar season this year and Antoine will be a minor part of their success. I also doubt that the Heat will be the last team Antoine ever plays for.

That’s because Antoine has spirit and heart, but he can’t fit in with any system that doesn’t include him as a vital piece. Personally, I think he’s one of the most spectacularly bad players I’ve ever seen play the game, but there are smarter people than me who believe he has a place in this league, and I’m not about to say I know more than people who do this for a living. However, it is hard to say what he still brings to the table as player, and it’s much easier to list the things he is not. Antoine is NOT: 1) the “missing piece of the puzzle” that puts a contending team over the top, 2) the likeable veteran willing to accept whatever role it takes to help a young team, 3) a core guy to build a franchise around.

We have seen him fail at all of these things in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta. Now he’s getting older and slower and more desperate to salvage his reputation as a top player in the league. In a best case scenario he buys completely into the role player mentality and becomes a useful piece of Miami’s puzzle. In a more likely future, his bad habits will wear out his welcome and he’ll continue his odyssey as a peripatetic NBA spare part and annual trade filler.

I think Toine is a likeable guy and I hope he puts it together in Miami, but we never should have reacquired him and I am grateful he’s gone for good this time.

The future is back on track. Al Jefferson is once again the real #8.

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