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PORTLAND, Maine -- Antoine Walker made his first start of the season Thursday night for the Idaho Stampede.Otto Kitsinger/NBAE/GettyAntoine Walker is seeking another NBA opportunity by starting again at the ground floor.
Yes, it's a start. In the NBA Development League, dreams know no bounds, whether it's in the head of a non-drafted 22-year-old with no real chance or a 34-year-old who has played in 893 NBA games plus three All-Star Games and has a championship ring as a member of the 2006 Miami Heat.
Walker hasn't graced an NBA floor in nearly three years. He has no idea how this latest comeback will end up. He has a very specific idea of how he hopes it will end up -- back in the NBA within a couple of months on a playoff-bound team.
He said he felt he owed himself one more shot.
"I left the game way too soon and I want to get back,'' Walker said after the Stampede's morning shootaround at the Portland Expo Center before their 105-99 loss to the Maine Red Claws in which Walker had 25 points and 8 rebounds in 33-plus minutes. "I still believe I can play. … I'm a very unique player. There aren't many guys in the league who can do what I do, at my size, to be able to space the floor, take you off the dribble, make plays. I think there are only a handful of guys who can do that. And I have the experience. I've played in big games. I've won a championship. I think I bring a lot of experience to a team."
When we last saw Walker in the NBA, he was coming off the bench for a truly horrible Minnesota Timberwolves team in the 2007-08 season. His last NBA game was on Feb. 19, 2008, an eight-minute stint against Philadelphia in which he had zero points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and 2 fouls. Twenty-five days earlier, he made his last appearance in Boston -- where he had been a member of the Celtics from 1996 to 2003 and again in 2004-05 -- playing 15 minutes for the Wolves.
Minnesota traded Walker to Memphis on the night of the 2008 NBA draft, but he never appeared in a regular-season game for the Grizzlies, who released him in December 2008. Until signing with the Stampede on Dec. 7, the only competitive basketball Walker played since February 2008 was this past February and March, when he went to Puerto Rico to play for the Guaynabo Mets.
That didn't go over well. He was out of shape. He was unfamiliar with the international rules. He had only one American teammate (Marcus Fizer). But the experience made him realize how much he missed the game.
"I got my hunger back,'' Walker said.