Let the Run End by Green 17
Antoine has experienced, almost from his rookie year, the adoration and the vitriol of being a major sports celebrity in a city that will at one minute revere a sports figure like a god, and the next crush him if he is deemed no longer worthy of the Boston (or New England) on his jersey.
This is one of my many problems with Antoine, and part of the reason why I continue to make the case that the team would be better off in the long-run without Employee #8. Nearly the entirety of his time in the NBA, Antoine has been the primary offensive option and the primary focus of the media/fan attention. When Paul became an potent offensive threat, Antoine was responsible for less of an offensive load. However, he did the heavy lifting with the media remained a solid focal point of fan attention, and was still unquestionalbly the team leader. In Dallas, he was put in the position of being more of a complimentary player, supporting a team that had an unbelievable talent level and an overly quotable owner who was just as recognizable as any of the stars on that team. While media and fan attention in Atlanta was considerably less, Antoine had carte blanche to take any and every shot he saw fit and was he only real threat on a miserable team. For all but one season in his career, Antoine has had the open ears of the media, the eyes of the fan upon him and the ball in his hands.
With that context behind us, rewind to the trade deadline in late February. The city of Boston, the team and Antoine were energized by the trade. Initially, it all probably worked too well. Part way through a brutal west-coast road trip, the Celtics were listless. A win against a craptastic Jazz squad, a ferocious win at PHX (however, without the newly crowned MVP) and then a spate of less than impressive foes comprised the big hot streak of the season (From 2/25 to 3/19 the team went 11-1 with wins against 8 lottery teams over that stretch). In full disclosure, I bought in big time to the team. They were playing well, articles were being written about them being one of the few championship contenders, and threads on message boards were created by absolute idiots babbling about green kool-aid.
Then the overly cocky Knicks game happened. And that was the beginning of the end. At the time I knew it was a bad, bad sign, I just couldn't admit it fully. I think the path to a 30-point beatdown in a home game 7 started with that Knicks game, but that's another post.
Throughout the win streak Walker played well. Once the streak was over, and the team leveled off again, there were subtle changes in his style of play, which became exacerbated in the playoffs. The consistency, efficiency and effectiveness that were present during the win streak diminished as the season wore on, and the team became less effective as a whole. The stats were still there by and large, but the rhythm of the team was not.
To a large extent I believe that he still considers himself to be the guy who should be taking (a) a lot of shots and (b) a good portion of the important shots. Given that he is the effective representative to the media (it was not Paul on TNT talking about the revitalization of the C's for example) and his prior history of being the main guy I can not really fault him for reassuming his old role of offensive team leader.
At this point, I think the best role for Toine on this team is more along the lines of Rasheed Wallace. Just be a basketball player. Do not be Employee #8, do not try and be the man, do not dominate the personality of the team. While leadership is certainly needed and appreciated with this group, he cannot be the sole leader.
I just don' t know that he can make this transition. Antoine has the mentality of NBA superstar on the court, but the physical skills just aren't up to par. It's not his fault. At this point, it's really just a learned behavior for Antoine to become the Alpha male on the team; it is all that he has ever known in his NBA career. I know Antoine wants to do well, and do well in the city of Boston. I'm just not sure that he knows how, or can.
Antoine has had an enjoyable 7.5 year run in Boston. This coming season will be the 20th Anniversary of the 1986 Celtics. 20 years. I would bet a decent amount of posters on these boards weren't alive the last time Red touched the O'Brien trophy. At some point you just need to try something new. Now is the perfect time. This team has a exciting group of young players that need to gain the experience necessary to succeed - that won't happen watching Antoine eat up their opportunities.