Antoine Walker describes historic pickup games with Michael Jordan, young LeBron James

Antoine Walker describes historic pickup games with Michael Jordan, young LeBron James

He didn't know it at the time, but Antoine Walker may have participated in the most talent-laden pickup games ever.

The former Boston Celtics star and Chicago native joined 670 The Score's "McNeil & Parkins Show" on Tuesday to share the great story about how he got roped into pickup games with Michael Jordan during the summer of 2001.

"He called me," Walker said. "And he was like, 'Hey, I'm thinking about making a comeback. I need you in the gym with me.' "

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Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1998 but indeed returned for the 2001-02 season to play for the Washington Wizards. So, prior to his return, Jordan recruited Walker and a number of other NBA stars including Michael Finley, Juwan Howard, Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette for a series of daily pickup runs.

Those runs also included LeBron James, then a 16-year-old high schooler from Akron, Ohio.

"We treated LeBron like a 16-year-old," Walker recalled.

James apparently recalled the same thing, revealing Monday in a video for UNINTERRUPTED that the group made him sit out for long stretches before finally letting him play.

James also remembers Walker and Jordan being fiercely competitive as captains for their respective squads.

"Him and Antoine Walker was just talking so much s--- back and forth, back and forth," James said.

"Very competitive," Walker said of he and Jordan's jawing. "All we talked about every day was winning. He used to give me so much stuff about not winning a championship."

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Walker only made the playoffs four times during his eight seasons in Boston, but he was in his prime during these pickup sessions: He averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game during the 2000-01 season and was an All-Star for Boston the next two seasons.

Walker also was a notoriously high-volume shooter -- which explains why he was never on Jordan's team during their pickup games.

"He likes to get less aggressive guys," Walker said. "Like, he'll take a Bobby Simmons, the guys that aren't really looking to score the basketball, so he can work on his game."

Those pickup games helped Jordan return for two more seasons with the Wizards -- and allowed Walker to share the court Jordan and James, arguably the two greatest NBA players ever.

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

Celtics will return to limited practice routine starting June 1

The Boston Celtics will move one step closer towards preparing for the remainder of this season, with voluntary individual player workouts beginning at the team’s practice facility on June 1. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday that professional teams in the state could resume practicing soon. 

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“I know we still aren’t to the point where we’ll have our pro sports teams back playing anything yet,” Baker said in a press conference at the State House. “The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again. And I think we all hope that at some point, opening practice facilities will help make that happen a little sooner.”

Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, echoed similar sentiments on Friday. 

“We’re happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center,” Ainge said. “And we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again.”

The Celtics added that the workouts will adhere to strict protocols that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Workouts are voluntary & will be conducted in strict accordance with city, state, CDC, and NBA requirements and guidelines.
  • Symptom and temperature checks will be done by team medical staff before anyone enters the facility.
  • Workouts will be limited to individual (1-on-0) shooting, strength and conditioning work, and medical evaluation and therapy as needed.
  • Only essential areas will be accessed. There will be no access to locker rooms, showers, hydrotherapy, medical exam rooms, cafeteria, and offices.
  • Only four players will be able to work out at a time, each working with only one staff member at a time. There will be no more than one player per half court at a time.
  • All staff members will wear masks in the building, and any staff member working with a player must wear gloves. Players will wear masks except while engaging in physical activity. Players and staff will adhere to CDC and NBA compliant social distancing standards at all times.
  • Social distancing will be required in the building except in limited specific instances  (e.g. physical therapy), when PPE will be used.
  • A thorough cleaning and disinfection of all spaces and equipment, including basketballs, will take place before and after each player uses the building.
  • Only staff members essential to these workouts will be present at the Auerbach Center. There will be no access for general staff, public, or media. 

While no definitive date has been set for the NBA to resume play, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has reportedly told owners that the league is targeting July 31 as a return-to-play date. 

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NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

NBA rumors: July 31 is a target date for 2019-20 season return

Could we see the return of NBA basketball at the end of July?

The Athletic's Shams Charania has reported the league told its Board of Governors on Friday that July 31 is a potential target date for the resumption of the 2019-20 season.

Charania also reported the league discussed four return to play scenarios ranging from going directly to the playoffs with 16 teams to bringing back all 30 teams and having them play 72 regular season games (most teams already have played around 65) before the postseason. The latter scenario doesn't seem likely, though.

If the season does resume, the remaining games (including the playoffs) could be played at one location to minimize travel and maximize the safety and health of players, team employees and everyone else involved. One such location reportedly being considered is Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

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It's important to remember nothing has been announced by the league, and plenty of details must be sorted out before games can start up again. This news of a potential target date for a season return is encouraging, though.