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Antoine Walker calls Danny Ainge a 'snake'

In many ways, Antoine Walker has moved on from the seven seasons he spent with the Celtics. He settled into his new Dallas home earlier this month and sold his Boston home earlier this week. The Celtics of the past with their 16 championships and storied rivalries no longer haunt Walker. But one player from Boston's last championship season does.

 

Walker maintains that the deal director of basketball operations Danny Ainge struck with Dallas was ``personal'' and called him a ``snake.''

During an interview earlier this week in southern California, Walker discussed the trade that sent him and Tony Delk to Dallas Oct. 20 in exchange for Raef LaFrentz and Jiri Welsch. Walker charged that Ainge specifically dealt him to Dallas because he wanted ``to set my career back a little bit.'' Additionally, Walker said the transaction might have set the organization back ``three or four years,'' and that ultimately, Ainge will regret it.

``Danny wanted to get rid of me,'' said Walker. ``If you look at the trade, I think he really felt like I wouldn't mesh with these guys in Dallas. Me, personally, I think he was really trying to set my career back a little bit. If you really look at what I got traded for, it's got to be the biggest difference [in talent] in history. Usually, an All-Star gets traded for an All-Star. And you gave away Tony Delk, a proven scorer in this league.

"I can't understand it, unless he was trying to put me in a situation where he didn't want me to succeed. Obviously, he's going to ship me West. That's obvious. He didn't think individually I'd shine in Dallas, maybe team-wise. But if I'm putting up minimum numbers and I'm just an average player with this team, he can live with that because he knows that's what he's going to get in return anyways, with Raef [LaFrentz].''

In response, Ainge denied his biggest move to date was ``personal'' and viewed Walker's comments in the context of a player still hurt by being traded.

``Time will answer all the questions,'' said Ainge. ``I'm not going to get into a squabble with Antoine Walker. Every player that gets traded is emotionally hurt and their pride is hurt and I understand it. I've been a player and I've been traded twice. I understand his perspective. I obviously don't agree. And I can't think of a better situation that Antoine Walker went to than Dallas, individually and everything. The organization was the only organization that made any offers of any significance. This was not about me trading him to Dallas."

Walker is averaging 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the 13-8 Mavericks, who entered Thursday night's action a half-game out of first place in the Midwest Division of the Western Conference. LaFrentz, battling ailing knees that have limited his action, is averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game for the 10-12 Celtics, who are two games behind New Jersey in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division. Welsch, who started slowly but has come on strong of late, is averaging 5.7 points a game. Mills was placed on the injured list Oct. 27 before the season opener and has yet to play for the Celtics.

``I knew that this might be a step backwards. I knew how some people might perceive this. I knew that Antoine Walker would put up better numbers in Dallas in my opinion than he did in Boston. I said all that the day of the trade.''

Walker is averaging 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the 13-8 Mavericks, who entered Thursday night's action a half-game out of first place in the Midwest Division of the Western Conference. LaFrentz, battling ailing knees that have limited his action, is averaging 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds a game for the 10-12 Celtics, who are two games behind New Jersey in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division. Welsch, who started slowly but has come on strong of late, is averaging 5.7 points a game. Mills was placed on the injured list Oct. 27 before the season opener and has yet to play for the Celtics.

Walker and the Mavericks will make their only trip of the season to Boston to play the Celtics on Wednesday.

Although Walker reiterated that he was surprised by the timing of the deal, he admitted asking for a trade last summer when it was clear no contract extension would be forthcoming. Walker has two years worth $28 million remaining on his current contract, with the option to choose free agency next summer. In July, he asked Ainge for an extension.

``In the summertime, I've got a chance to get an extension like Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and everybody else that did,'' Walker said. ``Why wouldn't I ask? We're all of the same caliber. None of us have won championships. We're all all-stars. So, why wouldn't I ask for an extension? Now, if you choose not to give me an extension, I have to respect that. I have two years on my deal I have to honor. At first, it bothered me, and I was like, `Just trade me now because I know you're not going to pay me. So, just trade me now.' We had a conversation on the phone and he said, `Well, no. I'm not going to trade you. I'm not going to move you.'

``So, I came into camp figuring I'm going to be there. My mindset was that I would be there at least till All-Star break because I figured he'd at least see how the team works out. And obviously, if we're not up to where he wanted us to be, then I'll probably be moved by All-Star break, which I would have understood if that's what he wanted to do because he's

just taking over. But he went the total opposite route. It came out of the blue. So, I just don't have lot of respect for him. So, it's tough for me. It's a bad situation.

``I don't like some of the owners. Because I particularly think if you run the team, you control what's going on. It is their first time. But if you tell me one thing and do something else, it's kind of hard for me. But about four or five guys on that team I have a lot of respect for, I like a

lot because we accomplished so much, we went through so much together. Coach O'Brien, I want him to do well, but it's tough for me to root for them. It's very tough because of the people that run the basketball operations.''

Walker contended that not receiving a long-term contract extension from the Celtics was never as contentious an issue as Ainge made it sound. Before asking for an extension, Walker understood there was a strong possibility Ainge would not offer one. While initially disappointed at not being given an extension, Walker said he understood the hesitancy that came with a relatively new ownership and a new director of basketball operations. Walker claimed that Ainge's decision did not affect his attitude in training camp.

``I asked him once [for an extension],'' said Walker. ``He said, `I don't want to do anything about it now. We'll talk about it later.' I'm not hurting for money. I'll make $28 million over the next two years. Obviously, if Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, all these guys

exercised their option, they asked like everybody else asked. Their teams chose to do it. It's a yes or no thing. I'm sure Shareef, Ray Allen, everybody that's in my class that has the same contract that I got that year, asked for their extension. Obviously, some teams said yes and some teams said no. I understood that. My agent knew that coming in, that it was going to be a yes or no thing.

``And if he chose to say, `no,' that's fine. I ain't hurting for money. I can play the game at a high level. But don't give me the runaround that you're not going to trade me, then trade me. It was at that point where I said, `If you want to trade me, that's fine, just let me know what's going on.' The only reason I came to him like that was because of the negative things he's always said about me in the past. So, I was like, if you don't want to pay me, move me to another situation. He was like, `No, I don't want to move you.' He was saying all the right things. But obviously he did the opposite thing.

``I'm set for life regardless of if I get another contract. The money aspect of it wasn't beating me over. It was just that I knew he was a snake. I knew that. I never had a relationship with him. I knew he was going to be a snake.''

Walker cited comments Ainge made on TNT shortly after Rick Pitino resigned in January 2001 as an indication that Ainge, then a commentator for the network's NBA coverage, was ``a snake.'' According to Walker, Ainge blamed him for Pitino's downfall on the air. At the All-Star break that year in Washington, Walker said he and Ainge ``bumped into each other,''

and Ainge apologized for his remarks. Walker also mentioned the fact that Ainge never bothered to establish a relationship with him once Ainge became the Celtics' director of basketball operations in May.

Over the summer, Walker hosted Marcus Banks in Chicago for two weeks of workouts. Walker said Ainge called Banks every day but never called Walker. Walker added that Ainge never called Pierce, either. When asked about the apology and the phone calls to Banks, Ainge said that Walker had his facts wrong.

``I never saw him [in Washington],'' said Ainge. ``I never apologized. I never even contemplated it. I'm not even sure I said it [about Walker being Pitino's downfall]. I don't even know that it's true. I didn't call Marcus every day. I called him a dozen times because we had issues to deal with with Marcus. And I did talk to Paul. I can't even comment on this. I'm not saying anything more about Antoine. It defeats the purpose. It's OK for Antoine to vent and say anything he wants.''

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