Wolves: Walker arrives determined to contribute

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 27, 2007 - 10:21 AM

Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said 11-year veteran Antoine Walker, acquired in a trade this week, "has an opportunity here."

Gone from Miami and freed from the calipers measuring his body fat, three-time NBA All-Star Antoine Walker joined the Timberwolves Friday for morning shootaround and declared himself just happy to be here.

Acquired Wednesday in a five-player trade that sent Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Heat, Walker has two seasons and $18 million remaining on his contract. He joins a team that has spent months unloading veteran salaries and committing itself to its young players.

"It's a good situation for me, coming to a young team that needs some veteran leadership from a guy who's been around," said Walker, an 11-year pro who is now with his fifth NBA team.

Walker angered Heat coach Pat Riley when he reported to training camp this month weighing 262 pounds -- 17 more than his listed playing weight -- with 15 percent body fat. Riley uncharacteristically revealed Walker's weight specifics and said he was "beyond irritated" with his conditioning.

When he was in Miami, Walker acknowledged he couldn't train as much as he would have liked last summer because of a sore Achilles' tendon and an incident in which he was robbed at his Chicago home at gunpoint.

"I feel great, 100 percent ready to go," Walker said. "I'm coming to play. I still believe I can play. Right now, everything is so undetermined: How many minutes I'm going to play. Where [what position] I'm going to play. Whether I'm going to start or come off the bench. I just want to fit in with the guys. Whatever my role is to fit in, I'm going to do that."

Riley did not play Walker in the Heat's final two preseason games, and Walker did not play in the Wolves' 106-85 victory over Milwaukee at Target Center because he just reported to the team on Friday morning. Before the game, Walker said he was anxious to play again and hoped to see some minutes in that preseason finale.

"He has no idea what we're doing yet," said Wittman, who added it wouldn't take Walker long to learn because of his experience.

Somebody asked Wittman whether he measured Walker with those calipers yet.

"To me, all he's got to do is show me he's in shape," Wittman said. "We're all built a little differently. If he's in shape, he's in shape. If he's not, we'll work to get him in shape."

When the Wolves opened training camp last month, veteran forward Juwan Howard respectfully but clearly stated he'd rather be playing for a contender at this stage of his career.

Asked Friday whether he'd rather be somewhere else, Walker said, "I don't think I can honestly say that. I haven't been here. You have to play and feel the situation out before I can make that comment. This is my fifth team. I don't know how many teams I'm going to play for in my career. I just want to relax and get acclimated to the team and the coaches. You never know where the situation may lead. Right now, I'm just going to focus on playing and making the most of the situation."

Wittman said Walker can help the Wolves at two positions: Power forward, where his outside game can draw defenders away from Al Jefferson when Jefferson plays center, and small forward, where Walker's size gives him a chance to exploit mismatches against smaller players.

"He has an opportunity here," Wittman said. "If he shows he can help this team, he'll be out there helping this team."

Wolves rookie Corey Brewer the other day recalled how much he loved to watch the Kentucky teams on which Walker played more than a decade ago when Brewer was a small boy.

Walker laughed when told about that.

"I ain't old," he said. "I was fortunate enough to come into this league at 19 and I'm 31 years old now. I feel good, and hopefully I can still play this game for a long time. A lot of these guys are going to feel the same way I feel when they're 31 because they're going to be in the league for a long time."

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