In 2001, that was what Celtics fans thought of Kedrick Brown.
After a few seasons of that not working out, Gerald Green came along and assumed that role.
Now Gerald is out, and Bill Walker is in.
The Celtics have spent this entire millennium looking for the next, great small forward. It began as the search for a back up to Paul Pierce. Then, for a short time, there was some talk about finding the guy who made Pierce expendable. And now, it’s about taking the torch from Pierce when he’s ready to pass it.
Pierce is approaching the end of his career. He’s got a few years left, which is just enough time to really groom the guy who will be taking over for him. So will Bill Walker be the one small forward who actually lives up to the expectations?
Brown’s problem was that we might have over-estimated his abilities. We were enthralled by his leaping ability, and it colored our opinion of his game. He never quite had the ability to do what we wanted him to do. He also took an unusually long time to come back from what we thought were minor injuries.
Green’s problem was, and continues to be, an inability to grasp the schemes. He’s an amazing individual talent, but he simply doesn’t have the right mindset. He can’t work within the flow of the offense. He never really developed as a defender. He can go one-on-one and he can be a scoring threat… but he tends to score at the detriment of his team.
Walker, however, seems to have the offensive skills that Brown lacked. And, according to his teammates, he’s got the strong mind that eludes Gerald Green.
“I’m telling you this right now, the kid’s going to be a really good player in our league some day,” Garnett said. “When coaches are (expletive) with him, he doesn’t bitch and moan. He comes right back in the drill and he goes at it. He’s getting a lot of respect around here with the veterans.
“The kid’s a good kid. We’ve got a lot of strong personalities around here, and he’s no different. But he understands he’s a young’un, and he works hard. That’s what you want from someone who’s young – come in here and bust your (butt). He does that.
“If he’s in there and he knows he has to make it tough for a guy like LeBron (James), then he’s going to do that.”
Walker is in a tough spot because there simply aren’t many minutes for him right now. But there was no way a rookie was going to get much time on a team with the Big 3, and other established guys with a stronger grasp of the offense and defense. But the beauty of being on this team, even with the lack of minutes, is the biggest advantage he has over Green and Brown. There is absolutely zero pressure on him.
Brown and Green were in losing situations. The team and fans were looking for help to return the team to prominence. It put a sharp, and perhaps unfair, focus on two very young people. Walker has no pressure to perform right away. He can sit and learn from the masters. He can go through a playoff run and, hopefully, a championship parade. He’ll learn what it’s like to be great from those who already are. Think of him as the Celtics version of Matt Cassel. Not a ton of expectations and plenty of time to practice and learn from one of the best. Some day, Walker will be pressed into service. And because he was in the right situation for the right amount of time, Walker might just become the guy the Celtics have been looking for all these years.