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Both Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce were chosen as reserves for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, which is as it should be. Paul Pierce clearly belongs. Despite his shooting slump, which is largely due to the lack of a break during the summer, he’s one of the best players in the NBA.

Antoine Walker is a more interesting case. I suspect that in fifteen years Walker is going to be remembered as one of the most frustrating players in the NBA. There’ve been plenty of players who’ve sacrificed their talent completely, and there have been a handful of players who’ve realized their potential. But Walker is one of a very few players who are clearly capable of playing the game at an exceedingly high level, yet are content to merely be very good. Few come so close to greatness for such a long time without reaching out and taking the brass ring.

He is quick down low, able to work against almost any other power forward, yet he can also shoot the three well enough so that you can’t leave him unguarded on the perimeter. He has excellent court sense, and passes the ball as well as any non-point guard out there. He’s had a 20-10 season.

On the other hand, he often gets lazy in the post and tosses up weak shots. He insists on shooting the three even when he’s got a man in his face. He dribbles the ball off his foot. He doesn’t have a good mid-range jumper, for no apparent reason other than that he never bothered to develop one.

He deserves to be on the All-Star team, but my god, he’s frustrating.

On the Boston Celtics newsgroup, people occasionally bitch about how Walker would have had no place on the 80s Celtic team. They’re dead wrong. I imagine Walker coming in as a rookie in 83 or 84, and I know exactly where he would have wound up. He’d be the Celtics sixth man, a role for which he is incredibly well suited. He could take any position in a pinch, allowing the coach to optimize the matchup problems he creates. He wouldn’t have had to be the leader of the team at a premature age. He’d have McHale talking to him about footwork down low.

It makes me sad, thinking about how he’d be remembered if he’d played back then. Instead? Instead, we get the frustrating guy who leads the team but doesn’t push himself, who’s never going to be one of the top 50 of all time.

Still. I’m glad he made the All Star team again.

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