BOSTON — Doc Rivers was never very close with Antoine Walker, even though the two share Chicago roots and an association with the Celtics. A lack of a personal relationship did not prevent Rivers from feeling a pinch of regret for the former All-Star, who announced his retirement over the weekend after two underwhelming years in the NBA Development League.
Walker, 35, departed the NBA in 2008 amid financial trouble that reportedly forced him to sell his 2006 NBA championship ring, and hoped a stint in the D-League would earn him a ticket back to the world of rich contracts and packed buildings. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game this season with the Idaho Stampede.
"All that hits me," Rivers said Sunday. "I had Antoine for half a year, so I never got to know him really well, even though he's a Chicago kid. But when any of that stuff happens to any athlete, it doesn't have to be basketball, it always tugs at your heart because they've worked so hard to get ahead and then when things don't go right for them, it bothers you."
Walker played 24 games for Rivers after a midseason trade brought him back to Boston in 2005. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds while helping the Celtics reach the playoffs, where they lost to the Indiana Pacers in seven games in the first round.