Sources: Antoine Walker to play in Idaho
Former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker intends to launch his latest comeback with the D-League's Idaho Stampede, according to sources close to the situation.
After years of legal and financial woes, Walker first must pass a background check that all D-Leaguers are subjected to before he can sign with the league, sources said.
But plans are already in place for Walker's rights to be claimed by the Stampede, who are coached by former NBA guard Randy Livingston, as long as there are no snags with background review.
D-League Blogger Scott Schroeder of AOL FanHouse was the first to report Walker's intention to sign with the NBA's 16-team developmental league.
As ESPN.com reported in September, Walker went to Charlotte on his own volition shortly before the start of training camp in hopes of impressing in pickup games and prompting Bobcats owner Michael Jordan to invite Walker to training camp. Walker stayed in Charlotte with Bobcats center and former University of Kentucky teammate Nazr Mohammed, but the 34-year-old couldn't convince his close friend Jordan to add him to the camp roster.
Walker, though, is said to be in much better shape now than he was last March, when he lasted only eight games in the Puerto Rican league with the Guaynabo Mets, averaging 12.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. He hasn't played in the NBA since leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2007-08 season and is desperate to resurrect his career after being derailed by his mounting off-court troubles including charges of writing bad checks to three Las Vegas casinos.
Sources who saw Walker working out at Tim Grover's gym in Chicago confirmed the claims earlier in the summer from Walker's uncle, former major leaguer Chico Walker, that the three-time All-Star had lost 18 to 25 pounds. Walker's condition and productivity had been criticized by Guaynabo Mets general manager Marcelo Garcia.
The D-League is widely regarded as the most scouted and most athletic league in the world outside of the NBA. Playing well for the Stampede would figure to be Walker's fastest route back onto an NBA roster, after he averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds in a 12-season career with Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Memphis and Minnesota and winning a ring with the Heat in 2005-06.
The maximum salary in the D-League is a modest $25,500, with players also provided housing and health insurance, but Walker's willingness to play under those terms is believed to part of his plan to show NBA executives how serious he is about this comeback.
Walker will be the second-oldest player in the D-League once the deal with the Stampede goes through. Antonio Daniels, at 35, is one of five former first-round draft picks playing for the Nancy Lieberman-coached Texas Legends, having also opted to use the Dallas Mavericks' D-League affiliate as his comeback platform instead of signing a more lucrative deal overseas.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.