Broke. Washed-up. Has been. These are all words or phrases that have been used to describe former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker. But while people were telling ’Toine what he could and could not do, he decided he was going to go his own route and take his talents to the NBA Development League – where he’s currently averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for the Idaho Stampede. While his surroundings may be different out in Boise, some things remain the same. For one, Walker has reunited with Stampede assistant coach Greg Minor, whom he played with for three seasons (1996-99) in Boston. In an exclusive interview, we got up with Minor to talk about Walker’s return to the game.
Dime: What do you remember about Antonie Walker in Boston?
Greg Minor: Well, I think first and foremost, he brought a lot of energy – even when he was a rookie. He brought a lot of energy, and people would gravitate towards him. The veteran guys fed off his energy, and you still see that here now that he’s the veteran.
Dime: Can you remember the first time you ever met him?
GM: My first encounter with Antoine was mainly in the training room. He was kind of quiet around his teammates, but from that point he transformed from a quiet guy to a very vocal guy. He talked himself into breathing confidence and that’s what I remember to this day. That, his smile and his desire to play.
Dime: Did you guys keep in contact after you retired?
GM: The first year into my retirement, I went to one of the games, but at that time I didn’t keep in contact with any of the players. I would call the front office personnel to say hello, but it’d been at least 10 years since we’ve talked.
Dime: How are things different this time around?
GM: The main thing is our roles. He and I were teammates, and now I am an assistant coach of a basketball team. In terms of his personality, he’s been through a lot. I don’t want to discuss those experiences, but they have helped shape him in a way that has him appreciate life more. Everyone here in the Idaho Stampede family really support him.
Dime: What can you tell us about his game in 2011?
GM: I think the most important thing about his game at this level is that his basketball IQ is just so much higher. After 13 seasons in the NBA, a former NBA All-Star, there’s some value in that. I think he still passes the ball really great, and he can get to certain spots on the floor. He’s a presence in the locker room as players gravitate towards him. He’s made it clear that he’s no different that anybody else, and there’s no one different than the team. He’s made guys buy into the want to get to that next level, and guys really respect that.
Dime: Do you think he can make it back to the NBA?
GM: That’s up to him. The amount of time that he puts in, the amount of energy he expends, I think he’s determined. Who wouldn’t want to excel at this level to get a chance to be called up at this stage of his career? He knows the window is closing, and there’s a sense of urgency.
Dime: What was his first game like?
GM: There was a totally different feeling from the team. When guys were breaking the huddle, he was grabbing those guys and making sure they grasped those concepts. He was teaching from the sidelines.
Dime: Was coaching always a goal for you?
GM: Coaching was always something I was interested in as far back as I can remember. And I’ve always been a student of the game. We as players have to think about the next step when we’re done playing. For me, I had to really see and envision what I wanted to do. I was so not loving the game with my unfortunate injury, but it was always a lifelong dream.
Dime: What’s it been like working with Stampede head coach Randy Livingston?
GM: He is a wonderful guy to work for and he gives you a lot of flexibility. He has a point guard mentality and I have a shooting guard mentality, so he’s great at breaking down from transition offense to what teams are running. He has a great feel for the game. When we come together. We have a mutual respect which makes for a great relationship.
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