It used to be Ritz-Carltons and charter flights for Antoine Walker(notes). Now he stays in motels and takes long bus rides. Such is life in the NBA Development League for the former three-time All-Star, who will make less in the minors this season than what he used to earn playing one game in the NBA.
Walker now plays for the Idaho Stampede, the first step in what he hopes will be a successful return to the NBA. Saddled with debt and legal troubles, Walker hopes to prove that not only can he still perform on the court, he's also improved his life off it.
"It's unfortunate that that's the reason I'm not in the league," Walker said. "We all go through trials and tribulations in life. I haven't killed anybody. I haven't committed a crime, so I don't feel bad about it. It's just a terrible decision I made."
Clark County prosecutors in Nevada would likely disagree with Walker's assertion that he hasn't committed a crime. He's facing three felony bad check charges for failing to repay about $900,000 in gambling debts and penalties. His trial has been postponed until May 2011.
Walker also was arrested in January 2009 in Miami on suspicion of drunk driving.
"I'm in this position that I'm in on my own," Walker said. "Nobody did it to me."
Walker, 34, last played an NBA game on Feb. 19, 2008, for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After the Memphis Grizzlies acquired him in the Kevin Love(notes)-O.J. Mayo draft-night trade, he was waived early the following season without playing a game, seemingly putting an end to his 13-season career. His life away from the court, however, soon took a series of hits.
The Boston Globe reported last year that Walker had gone broke despite earning more than $110 million in his NBA career. Walker's losses came from gambling, poor real-estate investments and his own generosity because he frequently gave money to family and friends. On May 18, 2010, he filed for bankruptcy, listing assets of $4.3 million and debts of $12.7 million.
"I just invested in the wrong time," Walker said. "I went into real estate in a recession and got caught. It's nothing more, nothing less. There is not a big story to it. I think a lot of people think it's a big, drawn-out story.
"I'm the personal guarantor of my companies. We own a ton of real estate. The market went bad, and now we have to pay back a ton of debt. We got to pay back a lot of loans and it's going to put me in a bad financial position. You win some, you lose some.
"Obviously, am I disappointed? Yes. But at the same time, there are Fortune 500 companies that have taken a tremendous fall in this recession."
Hoping to earn a consistent paycheck again, Walker began his basketball comeback by playing for the Guaynabo Mets in Puerto Rico for two months last season before being released on April 1. He worked out with the Charlotte Bobcats for about a week during the offseason, but he didn't earn a training camp invite. To help get himself in basketball shape, he trained with his old Kentucky coach, Rick Pitino, at the University of Louisville. He next called Stampede assistant coach Greg Minor, his former Boston Celtics teammate, about playing in the D-League.
Walker signed a contract with the Stampede on Tuesday; D-League players typically make about $30,000 per season. He's averaged 13 points, 5.5 rebounds, four assists and three turnovers in his first two games.
"I want to just play basketball," he said. "I haven't had a chance to play in a year and a half. I still believe I can play at a very high level and help some team out. I really, really want to give myself a full opportunity.
"I'd really kick myself in the foot if I just sat at home and packed it up."
Walker will get a chance to be scouted by the NBA during the Stampede's two games in the D-League Showcase from Jan. 10-13 in Texas. By then, his rustiness should be gone and he should be in better shape. NBA teams also typically look to add a player at the beginning of the year when 10-day contracts are allowed.
One NBA executive, however, told Yahoo! Sports that Walker's gambling issues will make it hard for teams to give him another chance.
"A lot of people get discouraged about the gambling situation," Walker said. "The casinos took advantage of a situation where I owed them money and we tried to work out a payment plan. But in 10 days they can issue a warrant for the money. They just did what they could do legally.
"Obviously, we're handling it behind the scenes to get it resolved."
Some of Walker's former teammates and coaches are pulling for him to get a chance to return to the NBA.
"He's young enough now," said Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who was an assistant when Walker helped the Heat win the 2006 title. "I heard he's in terrific shape, and hopefully he'll be able to play well enough in the NBDL to get another look at it. He deserves it."
Can Chouest save Hornets?
New Orleans Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest told the Associated Press on Friday that he remains interested in keeping the franchise in town, even though the NBA purchased the team – including Chouest's share – this week.
Chouest could eventually try to buy back a slight majority share of the team if he can find other investors to purchase the remaining percentage, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Chouest was close to completing a deal to take control of the franchise from outgoing owner George Shinn in the spring before negotiations broke down.
Though finances obviously played a role in the sale not being completed, league sources also said Chouest, who is extremely private, has been hesitant to increase his public profile.
The big question now is whether it will be worth buying the Hornets with a lockout expected after the season. Also, is there anyone with Louisiana ties interested in joining forces with Chouest?
Jeter a step behind his sibling
Sacramento Kings rookie point guard Pooh Jeter(notes) says he is the fastest player on the team and could hold his own in a race with anyone in the league. But as speedy as Jeter is, he can't beat his sister.
Jeter's sister, Carmelita, is the second-fastest woman ever in the 100 meters. Her personal-best time of 10.64 at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix last year was the fourth-best ever. Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster.
"Pooh's quick, but come on now," Carmelita said. "Since I've been a professional we haven't raced. Pooh's fast, but not track fast. That's a big difference."
Said Pooh: "I can beat her with a basketball in my hands."
Pooh went undrafted in 2006 after averaging 18.5 points as a senior for the University of Portland. He spent time the past three seasons playing in the D-League, Ukraine and Spain. He got his break when the Kings signed him to a two-year contract after a strong summer league performance.
"He was always the one that was undersized and nobody really gave him the chance," said Los Angeles Clippers guard Baron Davis(notes), a close friend of Pooh's. "He didn't get recruited by a big-time college, but he just loved the game. He's a good kid. He's like my little brother, so I had to cry."
While the Kings have considered adding a veteran point guard, Jeter has been given a chance to prove himself. He is averaging 5.4 points and 2.8 assists and had 13 points and nine assists to spark the Kings to a 116-91 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. He also could be in line for more time with Tyreke Evans(notes) slowed by an injury to his left foot.
"Just trying to take advantage of the opportunity that comes my way with a lot of energy and leadership," Jeter said.
Carmelita, 31, is in her prime after rising from obscurity at Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills. Her career also was initially slowed by a lingering hamstring injury. She began making a name for herself by winning gold in the 100 meters in the 2007 World Athletics Final. After failing to make the 2008 Olympic team, she won her second gold at the 2009 World Athletics Finals in 10.67 seconds before her record performance in Shanghai. Her goal now is to star at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Is a world record in her future?
"It's definitely something I strive for every day in practice," she said. "I'm not at practice saying, 'Oh, I got to beat this person or that person.' I'm at practice saying, 'I want to beat Flo-Jo.' That's the person you want to beat."
A source close to Carmelo Anthony(notes) told Yahoo! Sports that his preference is to be dealt to the New York Knicks, and he still isn't interested in playing for the New Jersey Nets. The Denver Nuggets make their lone appearance this season at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday. … Players who were signed in the offseason are eligible to be traded Dec. 15, but one league GM doesn't expect the big-name free agents to be involved in any deals. … Washington Wizards forward Josh Howard(notes) is targeting the Dec. 22 game against the Chicago Bulls to make his season debut. Howard, who is recovering from left knee surgery, said he will come off the bench and be limited to 15 minutes a game at the start of his return. "I've been practicing, playing one-on-one and doing my drills," Howard said. "I just need more five-on-five under my belt."
- Idaho Stampede