By Brian Spencer
Well done, Bill Walker.
I’m not sure how much longer this can last; it could end as soon as Wilson Chandler returns to the Knicks and to the starting lineup. Regardless, it’s a good feeling to see a kid like Walker, graced with so much natural talent, but along with it, balky knees which threaten to derail his NBA career before it begins in earnest, finally getting the chance to prove he belongs at this level.
Friend of mine, one of a million wayward Knicks fans desperately trying to maintain optimism for a brighter future, came through with last-minute tickets to Wednesday night’s game at the Garden between the Knicks and my (embarassingly pattycake) Pistons. While my last visit to MSG was all about Tracy McGrady, this night belonged to Walker, the second-year swingman from Kansas State acquired mostly as a throw-in in the trade-deadline deal that sent Nate Robinson to Boston.
With Chandler again out for personal reasons, the 6-6 Walker was announced as the starting point guard, partially due to his strong individual performance on Monday in a blowout loss to the Cavaliers (9-14 FG for 21 points, including 2 triples, along with 5 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block), and partially because Chris Duhon and Sergio Rodriguez, the Knicks’ only true PGs on the roster, are awful.
He didn’t disappoint, taking advantage of a disinterested Detroit defense early by running the floor and slashing to the hole for easy layups and a few dunks that got the mostly dispassionate fans riled up and out of their seats. Dunks like this:
He logged a career-high 36:27 minutes, going 9-13 from the field en route to 22 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and a steal. He played with passion, something we don’t get nearly enough of at the Garden, and he played like a guy trying to earn a contract… and he is, with the Knicks’ holding bargain-basement team options on Walker for the next two seasons ($854k and $916k, respectively).
There’s no question Walker has NBA talent: as Michael Beasley’s running mate in Kansas State, he was named to the All-Big 12 Third Team as a redshirt freshman in 2008, averaging 16.1 points, 6.3 boards, 1.9 assists. He declared for the draft early, and likely would have been a late-lottery pick if not for blowing out his knee during a predraft workout—his third major knee injury since ’03. That dropped him all the way down to the middle of the second round, where he was taken by the Washington Wizards and flipped to the Celtics.
Since then, it’d been nothing but spare, mostly meaningless minutes with the Celtics sandwiched between stints in the D-League, but now… eh, I don’t want to jinx him. Let’s just say this is the time of the season when young players on teams going nowhere often get extended auditions for next year, and for Walker it’s been so far, so good. Don’t forget this team technically has just three players under contract next year (Gallinari, Chandler, and Toney Douglas)… four if you include Eddy “Fat” Curry’s fat $11.2 million player option, one I’m sure he has no intention of exercising.
“Is there anything Bill Walker can’t do?” The first time my friend said it, it was jokingly, but the second time, after a fantastic pass to David Lee for a layup, there was some sincerity to it. Two games make not a career, but for a few nights, at least, Walker has turned the heads of those disillusioned Knicks fans grasping for something, anything, to get excited about.
Keep it up, Bill, and take care of those knees.
Bill Walker Photo Credit: Icon SMI