MIAMI (AP) -Antoine Walker's level of conditioning is still a concern for the Miami Heat, and coach Pat Riley predicted Wednesday it may take the forward until January to meet his team-mandated body fat level.
The issue has been a thorny one for Walker and Riley for the past two seasons. Walker was briefly suspended by Riley last season over body-fat measurements, and was kept out of the opening day of training camp practice this year for the same reason.
And although Riley is a stickler for fitness, he insisted Walker isn't in the team doghouse, either.
``He's a hard worker. He works every day,'' Riley said. ``He comes to practice every day. Doesn't miss any practices. He's never missed any games. ... He doesn't miss anything. The question is that I'm trying to get him in optimum condition.''
And in this case, Riley would define ``optimum'' as 235 pounds with 7 percent body fat. Riley estimated that Walker weighed 262 pounds with 15 percent body fat at the start of camp, and has been slowed by a sore Achilles' tendon for the past week.
``I just know that he can't sustain a practice of ours ... that's why his Achilles' goes on him,'' Riley said. ``To me, it's the overall conditioning and conditioning the right way.''
Walker was not available for comment before the Heat played the Atlanta Hawks in an exhibition game Wednesday night. He was in uniform and expected to play.
Walker played a key role in Miami's run to the 2006 NBA championship and is entering his third season with the Heat. He averaged career lows in scoring (8.5 points) and minutes (23.3) last season, but Riley believes he can still be a solid member of the Heat's rotation.
``We need him,'' Riley said. ``We need his offense, his versatility and stuff, and what I have to do is I have to swallow my pride, my coaching pride here and not just sort of cut off my nose to spite my face.''
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