The Atlanta Hawks are dangling former Celtic Antoine Walker as trade bait, and the Celtics are interested.
“We’d love to have him,” a team official said. “The Eastern Conference is wide open and Antoine could put a team over the top.”
The Celtics traded Walker and Tony Delk to the Dallas Mavericks Nov. 10, 2003, for Raef LaFrentz, Jiri Welsch, Chris Mills and the Mavericks’ 2004 first-round draft pick, which turned out to be Delonte West.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers and director of basketball operations Danny Ainge want Walker, said the source. Walker was upset when he was traded, but would welcome a return to Boston. “Antoine would be on a bus tonight. He’d walk here,” said the source. “Boston has a chance to make the playoffs. Atlanta (5-20) has virtually none.”
It was Ainge who traded Walker, who averaged 20.8 points in his seven years with the Celtics. “Ainge would love to have him back,” said the source.
But, as usual, the problem is money. Walker is making $14.6 million and in order to offset a contract like that the Celtics would have to deal players with contracts who approximate that figure. The 76ers, said the source, are “desperate to get Walker.” Philly coach Jim O’Brien coached Walker when both were with the Celtics. The Pacers, without suspended star Ron Artest, are interested in Walker, too.
Atlanta’s holding the trump card. “They’re going to deal (Walker) by Feb. 20,” said the source.