|Antoine Walker joins Timberwolves, hopes to help their young players|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 26 October 2007 15:27|
After arriving in Minnesota, Walker sounded relieved with his fresh start - even if contending for a playoff spot with the Timberwolves looks like a huge long shot.
Though Walker said he had a good time in Miami, he voiced his frustration Friday that coach Pat Riley went public with his criticism of Walker's weight.
``He has numbers, no matter who you are. We get weighed and body fat every week. If you're not on your number, he believes you're not in shape,'' Walker said during his first appearance since being shipped to Minnesota with two other players and a first-round draft pick in exchange for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.
``They were coach's rules since he got there,'' Walker said. ``Everybody goes through it. Why it went public that I didn't make my number, I don't know.''
Riley said earlier this month that his optimum weight for Walker was 235 pounds, with 7 percent body fat. The coach said on Oct. 10 that Walker weighed 256 pounds after starting training camp at 262 pounds, with 15 percent body fat.
The three-time All-Star, who was an important contributor to the Heat's 2005-06 title, averaged career lows last season with 8.5 points and 23.3 minutes. He has been bothered lately by an Achilles' tendon problem, which Riley said was because he was behind in his conditioning.
Walker didn't suit up for Friday's exhibition game against the Milwaukee Bucks, but with the regular-season opener a week away he said he was in satisfactory shape.
``I never missed a practice from day one. I've been there every day,'' Walker said.
So how does he fit with the Wolves? They have nine players - out of 16 currently in camp - age 25 or younger after a series of trades over the past few months. Wayne Simien, one of the players sent by the Heat, has not reported to the team.
``Coming here gives me an opportunity to be a leader again, to kind of put my stamp on some of these young guys - to help them out so they can become better players, help them in their off-the-court decisions as well as on the court,'' Walker said. ``I want to play basketball. In Miami, it was getting outside of just playing basketball. I love to play the game. I want to play. Everything was highlighted up too much for me, so this is a different situation.''
His new teammates sounded unsure about yet another change to the roster, but they welcomed the experience Walker adds even if it's unclear how many minutes and shots he might take from one of the developing players.
``It's a work in progress, and I know everyone here is willing to do it,'' guard Randy Foye said.
Al Jefferson, who essentially became the center when Blount was traded, played with Walker during his last season with Boston, 2004-05.
``He's been around a long time. He's got a championship, something that a lot of us don't have. So I think he'll bring a lot of leadership,'' Jefferson said.
One Minnesota's few veterans, forward Juwan Howard, expressed disappointment when Kevin Garnett was traded to the Celtics and has said he would prefer to be traded.
Walker was diplomatic when asked if he would rather wind up with a contender.
``It's hard for me to say that. I haven't been here. I haven't played here. You have to play and feel the situation out before I can make that comment. This is my fifth team,'' he said. ``I don't know how many teams I'm going to play for in my career, but when you get to one spot you want to just relax for a minute and get acclimated to the team and the coaches. You never know what the situation is going to be. So right now I'm just going to focus on playing and making the most out of the situation.''
Coach Randy Wittman hopes he'll do just that.
``I don't pay attention to what is said in Miami about Antoine,'' Wittman said. ``All I can go on is what I see. That's what I've told him. He's got an opportunity here. If he shows he can help this team, he'll be out there helping the team.''
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.