C's Get an A for 'Toine Trade
The Boston sports world is on edge, plain and simple. You might be expecting me to discuss the Boston Red Sox, but in truth, that pain is still far too deep and far too near. My friends know how much it broke me, and the Sox will not be spoken of again until there is a reasonable facsimile of healing in me. No, what I speak of, on top of the Sox, is the trade of Boston Celtics co-captain Antoine Walker. That's right folks, Antoine Walker is gone, to Dallas no less, along with Tony Delk for Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills and a first-round draft pick.
I can hear my buddy Mark back in Needham screaming, "'Toine is gone? The Hell you say!" I'm serious, pissants. The man with the ugliest jump shot in all of basketball -- and the worst fastbreak leader since the days of John Bagley -- is now on the Run 'n Shoot Mavericks. What gives?
Everyone and anyone who has paid attention to basketball lately knows that Danny Ainge, the Celtics' new head of basketball operations, does not like Toine's game. Neither does anyone else not named Antoine. Yes, he scores double digits, and is capable of grabbing eight boards a game. But he has the worst shooting percentage of ANY player who scored more than 15 points in a game, and of his rebounds, how many rebounds came as a result of boxing out, or jumping for that matter? NONE! His boards came when he put back his own botched layups, or when he picked up uncontested bricks hurled up by the guys he was "guarding."
I could go on and on and on about the travesty of Antoine Walker being an All-Star, but I won'tmuch. He's an All-Star because the Eastern Conference is weaker than the Maginot Line. But when he played Kenyon Martin one-on-one in the playoffs, he scored less than Flounder in Animal House. And K-Mart is one of the three greatest defensive forces in the East, along with Ben Wallace and Pat Reilly (only when you are the team playing against the Heat). Alright, enough about the late, great number eight.
On to Raef! I will not sit here and tell you that LaFrentz is good enough to be the centerpiece of a trade for 'Toine. But he has potential to be a good complentary player for the Celtics, and in the Least Conference, he could be an All-Star center. This man averaged more than 12 points and seven rebounds a game for four years until he was traded to Dallas, where he never fit in and was never properly used. Oh yeah, and he can block shots. All of these are things the Boston Celtics DESPARATELY need. It also gives the C's some inside protection for Vin Baker and the oft-injured Tony Battie. Battie can play some power forward and run high pick-and-rolls with Paul Pierce and Marcus Banks. This can't be bad for the C's.
Let's throw away the other negligible parts of this deal, otherwise known as Chris Mills and Tony Delk, to get to the heart of this deal. The draft pick will be late in round one. Short of freak happenings in the draft, this pick will get used on a long term project, maybe a high-schooler with a ton of potential or a European who needs to learn the American game. A good thing for Ainge, who then can take a more polished or prepared player with Boston's own pick and still look towards the future.
The key to this deal is Jiri Welsch. The man is 23 years old, 6'7" and a second-year player. He can shoot lights out, he can handle the ball well, he has speed and he can play a little defense. He's been called a shorter Peja Stojakovic with better feet. Throw that guy in with Paul Pierce and the electric potential of Marcus Banks, and the Celtics might not only be able to score fast in two years, but do it IN TRANSITION! Such words have not been uttered in Boston in years! Admittedly, Jiri needs work, but I like him in Green.
And if this column was too Boston-centered for you, here's the Dallas spin. They are dumb and they are done. They traded Nick Van Exel, their spark and the heart of their team, for Antawn Jamison and Antoine Walker who play the same position, take a ton of shots and play no defense. Oh yeah, and they eat time from Danny Fortson and Eduardo Najera. They are still gonna be fun to watch, though much less so with Walker's human nightmare reels instead of Nicky V, but in the playoffs, when D matters, they are as dead as the Utah Jazz's playoff hopes. As Tony Kornheiser said "They absolutely have to trade at least one Antoine." Better advice hasn't been given since Jules made Pumpkin leave the diner without his briefcase. If only Tarantino would make a movie about the Mavericks. It would be hot!