Highlighting Antoine Walker’s brief stint with the Atlanta Hawks.
Last week, I wrote about Rasheed Wallace‘s one-game career with the Atlanta Hawks, which I quite enjoyed doing. In this strange time without basketball or sports in general, some have turned to highlights of classic games, and others have become glued to NBA 2K.
For me, I’ve been digging deep into the NBA rabbit hole that is Basketball Reference. The website has long been among my most visited, and it’s how I’ve been getting through the whole social distancing thing.
Mostly, I look for oddities and fun stats, across the NBA but specifically for the Atlanta Hawks. It’s how I first remembered the Rasheed Wallace game, and it’s how I got an idea for a new series: He played for the Atlanta Hawks?
The point is to highlight a star or at least a notable player who played for the Hawks but is definitely not remembered as a Hawk. Here, we’ll start by taking a look at three-time All-Star Antoine Walker.
Walker was drafted sixth overall by Boston in 1996 and served as their starting power forward for seven years. He made three All-Star games, averaging over 20 points per game in five of his season years with the team.
Just days before he was supposed to begin his eighth season in Boston, he was traded to Dallas for a package of players including Raef LaFrentz. He played in all 82 games for the Mavs that year, but his stats saw a significant drop with a lesser role. After the season, he was traded to the Hawks, along with Tony Delk for Jason Terry and a future first-round pick.
After the trade, Hawks’ GM Billy Knight said of the move: “Antoine is a proven All-Star who has the ability to play many positions for us, and he will fit in nicely in our system.”
The Hawks had some nice young pieces like Boris Diaw, Josh Smith, and Josh Childress, on the squad, the latter two being first-round rookies. Walker and Delk joined veterans Al Harrington and Tyronn Lue, and on paper, Atlanta had a pretty solid roster.
Their play on the court did not show that however, and they got off to a 2-14 start, en route to a franchise-worst 13-69 record. Walker played in 53 games for the Hawks and performed pretty well.
He averaged over 40 minutes per game, scoring 20.4 points and pulling down 9.4 rebounds contest. Walker shot 19.1 field goals per game, making 41 percent of them. He had two standout performances, both of which had him scoring 36 points. He was a floor-spacing power forward before it was cool, and hit five or more threes in those two games.
In February, The Hawks cut ties with Walker, sending him to Boston to reunite with the C’s. The Hawks acquired Tom Gugliotta and Michael Stewart, in what ended up being their final seasons, as well as Hall of Famer Gary Payton, who was quickly waived and re-joined the Celtics. Atlanta also got a first-round pick.
Antoine Walker was traded yet again following that season, and spent the next two seasons in Miami, helping them win the NBA Finals in 2006. His final season came in the ’07-’08 season when he averaged 19.1 minutes off the bench for Minnesota.
Walker’s 53 games with Atlanta were statically good but didn’t lead to much team success. He led the Hawks in all the major categories and did net them a future draft pick.
He was the best player on a very bad Hawks team, and that showed itself when the Hawks went 3-26 to end the season after trading him.
His time with Atlanta is a fun nugget of Hawks history, and one’s that’s not well-documented. I could find zero clips of Walker in a Hawks uniform on Youtube, and even on Google Images, there’s not much. If you search “Antoine Walker Hawks” on Google Images, the first image that pops up is him in Dallas blue.
Perhaps if the talent around Walker in Atlanta turned out better than it was, then he would have had a long term career in Atlanta. Looking back, however, it would have been dumb for a terrible Hawks team to keep Walker, even if he was in the midst of one of his best statical seasons.
If you can think of any obscure, notable players who spent a bit of time in Atlanta, let us known via the comment section or on Twitter.