Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Updated: October 23, 1:06 AM ET
Walker: 'Someone didn't like me'
ESPN.com news services
The Celtics and Mavericks made a business deal Monday, but Antoine Walker took it personally.
One day after being traded to Dallas, Walker ripped the Celtics, stating that his relationship with the team's management -- or lack thereof -- led to his departure.
"I didn't have a relationship with [Danny Ainge, the team's new director of basketball operations and a former Celtic], period," Walker told The Boston Globe on Monday, hours after the trade. "They're going to say cap reasons and this and that. But anybody who knows basketball knows this was a personal situation. He didn't like me. It's either him or the owners. Somebody didn't like me.
"I figured I had too much power for them. I think I had too many friendships off the court. I think he felt he couldn't have a relationship with me. And I just think he never had a high regard for my game. He's entitled to that opinion. I'm 99 percent sure coach [Jim] O'Brien didn't want me to leave."
Walker will hold a news conference in Dallas on Tuesday evening and will most likely play Wednesday night at Sacramento.
The Mavericks acquired the All-Star forward and guard Tony Delk, and the Celtics agreed to take center Raef LaFrentz and the six seasons remaining on a $69 million, seven-year contract signed before last season, plus Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills, and Dallas' first-round pick in 2004.
According to The Globe's report, Walker was informed of the trade by Ainge, who told him he was headed to a very good team that really wanted him. Walker simply said, "All right," and hung up after Ainge wished him good luck.
In a news conference at the Celtics' training facility, Ainge denied that the move was personal, but then allowed that Walker's strong personality was a factor. Ainge said Walker's outspoken presence may have "stifled" the leadership of other Celtics.
"Antoine had a grasp on our franchise," Ainge told The Globe. "If Antoine is Michael Jordan, it's OK to have a grasp. If Antoine is Larry Bird, it's OK to have a grasp, or Bill Russell. I think those players had grasps on their franchises.
"But I didn't perceive Antoine's grasp on us as a positive thing."
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck also denied the deal was made because of a personality conflict.
"It was a unanimous recommendation from everybody involved in basketball," Grousbeck told The Globe. "The two people that [owner] Steve Pagliuca and I met with on Saturday, Jim O'Brien and Danny Ainge, both recommended the deal. The coaching staff, the scouts, player personnel, and Danny unanimously backed the deal. It was not personal."
It has been well-documented that Ainge, in his capacity as a television analyst, had been critical of Walker and his style of play.
"I think Antoine Walker is an excellent player and he's done an excellent job in this organization," Ainge told The Globe. "This is simply basketball. This has nothing to do with anything personal. I don't know Antoine except from basketball observation, from a fan, coaching, and general managing perspective. Maybe I didn't have as high a regard for his game as he had for his game, but I certainly respect Antoine Walker as a player."
Walker, who had been seeking a long-term contract extension, said he was not completely surprised when he received the news of the trade.
"That's life, man," Walker told the paper. "It's one man's opinion, but it's tough when that one man is head of basketball operations."