|After trade, Antoine Walker returns to Miami|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 17 December 2007 14:34|
There is, however, one piece of consolation for the injured Minnesota forward.
``I wasn't the problem,'' Walker said.
Walker returned Monday night to American Airlines Arena - home of the Miami Heat - for the first time as a visitor since he was sent to the Timberwolves in October as part of the deal that brought Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to South Florida.
The trade ended a long, often public, feud between Walker and Heat coach Pat Riley over conditioning issues and other matters. And while Walker did have a couple pointed comments about his time in Miami and his relationship with the legendary coach, he clearly isn't relishing seeing Miami get off to a 6-17 start.
``It was better for me to leave,'' Walker said. ``I wasn't getting any positive press. Riles kept my name in the papers for something negative and it was a back-and-forth thing about body fat. I like to play basketball. I was getting tired of that. It was best that I moved on. But we won a championship. We had a great team. I had a great two years here.''
Walker was the second-leading scorer behind Dwyane Wade for Miami in the 2006 NBA finals, and his contributions to that Heat championship run were never ignored by anyone around the team, including Riley.
But he was briefly suspended last season over the body-fat issue, then was held out of Miami's opening practice this season because of a failed conditioning test - and resented that Riley went public with the issue.
Three weeks later, he was sent to Minnesota.
``I would rather be somewhere I could be happy,'' Walker said. ``I don't want to deal with negative press. I want to play basketball for the rest of my career and have fun playing it.''
Walker did not play Monday; he's sidelined by an ankle injury. He's been mostly a reserve for Minnesota, averaging 10.4 points in 21 1/2 minutes per game.
``He's been great,'' Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. ``He has given us good minutes off the bench. He's been a good help with the young guys in practice. Antoine has come in and handled the situation really well.''
Walker kept his Miami-area home, plus has successful investments in restaurants and real estate in the South Florida region.
And even though he's a rival now, he still thinks Miami will turn its season around.
``We started off struggling last year. We hovered four or five games under .500 last year for a while until the All-Star break,'' Walker said. ``They've got the talent to get back in it. Everybody kind of has to be on the same page in the locker room and wanting to do it, but they do have the talent to do it in there.''