Thursday, July 10, 2008

The 'Toine Factor

While there has been a ton of hours logged discussing the various aspects of the draft night trade that saw O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love change franchises, most of it has focused on those two players and sharpshooter Mike Miller while ignoring the other pieces in the transaction. Jason Collins should be a solid backup for the T'Wolves, while Brian Cardinal fills the need for a "token white guy" at the end of the bench. Just kidding BC -- you know we love you and think that you'll make a great coach after your playing career is over. For Memphis, Greg Buckner will supply solid defense on the perimeter and Marko Jaric will bring one of the hottest women on the planet to our fair city. What's that? Jaric can play 3 positions? Bonus!!!

The one guy that seems to have slipped through the cracks as nothing more than a throw-in salary that will likely be unceremoniously bought out and left to the winds of free agency is Antoine Devon Walker.

You remember this guy, right? Talented, easy-going, fun-loving.....and in shape. Now just think about what could happen if he showed up in Memphis with that same mindset, that same hunger and desire to win. A tantalizing dream, isn't it? Not only could he start at PF, but he could also be a veteran influence who knows how to win on the biggest of stages. That would be quite a coup for a team full of young players that need someone who has already been through the pains and struggles of climbing the mountain. I'm not saying that 'Toine will turn into a shining example of leadership overnight, but if he wants to play in the NBA beyond this season, then he's going to have to prove to the league that he hasn't become satisfied since winning a title with the Miami Heat in 2006.

Of course, perhaps he has reached the top of the mountain and feels that there is nothing left to accomplish. Even people who know him well have hinted that Walker isn't focused on playing and just seems to be going through the motions -- coasting, as it were.

The reason I bring this up is because Walker's mindset and approach to this season will probably determine who truly got the better end of the trade. Minnesota received two starters (Miller and Love) and one contributing role player (Collins). Memphis got one starter (Mayo), two contributing role players (Buckner and Jaric) and one big question mark (Walker). If that question mark becomes an exclamation point, then the Grizzlies can confidently say that they "won" the trade. It's your move 'Toine -- will it be a Shimmy or a slow dance?

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

I think Toine has something left in the tank too . . . probably a good 3-4 years. And he WILL want to play for another championship before he retires. Everyone does.

After the Miami Championship, he was out of shape, and worn out with those Pat Riley marathon practices. In Minnesota, he was probably mad about being traded from Miami (I've lived in South Florida. I'd be mad, too.) Which made him surly and probably put him at odds with the coach.

I'm thinking that if he can make a legit case for starting (i.e.: score as much as Hak, more rebounds, more defense), Iavaroni will start him. Otherwise, he'd be a backup PF on one of the league's bottom feeders, and that's a recipe for him to be toxic in the locker room.

I don't think he'll be bought out, simply because his expiring contract would be more valuable in a mid-season trade, preferably to a contender. That's another incentive for him to show up.

Now, Defense? That's the question. Will he play defense enough to make Kevin O'Neill happy? More than ever, defensive intensity is looking like a prerequisite to playing time. . .

In Memphis, he certainly has the chance to re-invent himself, show his value. He has the incentive, because let's face it: Who wants to walk away from the chance to make another several million dollars?

Here's hoping that 'Toine morphs into the surprise hit of the trade.


Garcia Vega said...

Im with the first poster. Walker will play hard the first half of the season, to set himself up as attractive trade bait to a team trying to get over the top. The Grizz can get the expiring contract off for more draft picks.