Antoine Walker Solid in D-League Debut
Walker, 34, didn't look terrible in his D-League debut either, contributing just over 26 minutes of solid basketball in an 83-80 victory over the Dakota Wizards, giving his new team its first victory after starting the season by losing their first seven games.
Walker came off the bench to score 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, though he missed all three of his 3-point attempts. He was able to show off his higher-than-average basketball IQ on his way to filling up the rest of the box score, however, by grabbing six rebounds, dishing three assists and grabbing a steal that began a fast break, eventually getting the ball to Portland Trail Blazers rookie Luke Babbitt for the and-one opportunity.
Babbitt, assigned to the Stampede earlier Wednesday, finished his D-League debut with a team-high 18 points to go along with six rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Dakota's Chris Johnson paced the Wizards with 25 points points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks while Renaldo Major added 18 points in a losing effort.
Walker, a 12-year NBA veteran, said Tuesday that he expected to be a bit rusty in his D-League debut.
"I'll probably be a little rusty in the beginning because I haven't played competitive basketball in a year and a half," Walker said while announcing his return. "It's going to be a little rough in the beginning, but hopefully it all comes back to me real fast."
The rust certainly showed as there were times when it wasn't hard to tell that Walker wasn't in tip-top basketball shape, but it was particularly apparent when he air balled a free-throw toward the end of the first half.
While the air-balled free throw was certainly the low point in his first game back to basketball relevance, Walker was able to show his solid passing skills and high basketball acumen, even passing up a few of his trademark 3-point attempts and instead driving to the basket for lay-up opportunities.
Walker also showed a fiery passion for the game by attempting to take a charge when Dakota's Mike Johnson was charging down the lane. It looked as though Walker had made a solid defensive play, but when the official called him for a block, Walker quickly protested while on the ground, eventually earning his first technical in the D-League.
Most importantly, though, Walker was able to help the Stampede snap the season-long losing streak.
"I'd rather come in with a team concept, play to win and have fun playing," Walker said Tuesday. "I just want to come be Antoine -- play basketball, play hard and play to win and then just let everything else take care of itself."
With a win and a solid -- if unspectacular -- debut now in the books, Walker's next chance to impress scouts on the way to an NBA comeback will be Friday against the Utah Flash.
Highlights from the game can be watched below: