By Kang Seung-woo, Yoon Chul
A career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) did not guarantee a place in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) for Samaki Walker, who was released by the SK Knights, Monday.
The ninth-ranked Seoul-based team decided to replace Walker with Christopher Garnett.
Walker, 33, drafted third after the KBL's tryout in Las Vegas last July, arrived in the league with much fanfare thanks to his 10-year career in the world's best basketball league.
The Louisville Cardinals grad was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth overall pick in the 1996 draft, which produced a pack of star players such as Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Jermaine O'Neal and Steve Nash.
He played 445 games during 10 seasons in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers, and averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds.
However, he did not play up to the team's expectations.
Walker has notched 14.1 points and 8.9 boards in 35 games, but he failed to play a finisher role on the Knights' 13-game losing streak, which came to an end Sunday.
Making matters worse, Walker's fitness appeared to be on the decline, as the center put up double-figures in points just once in five games in January and was outmuscled by other foreign players in the post.
As a result, the Knights brought Garnett to Korea for a tryout last week and then decided to make the switch.
Garnett played for the KTF MagicWings, a forerunner of the KT SonicBoom, last season and averaged 19.1 points and eight rebounds in 16 games.
Garnett, known for his post-up play, is slated to make his home debut against the Dongbu Promy, Friday.
KBL’s Decision to Hold Final Games in Seoul Outrages Fans
The Korean Basketball League (KBL) is taking heat from its fans for its decision to play the last three games of the best-of-seven championship series in Seoul, regardless of the teams involved.
The basketball governing body made the decision at a committee meeting Monday to play the final games at Jamsil Stadium to increase the number of spectators and media coverage.
If by chance one of the teams in the final is based in Seoul, the first two and last two games will be played in the capital.
Angry fans flooded the message board on the KBL's Web site with complaints about the move, with many claiming the KBL is neglecting its fans outside of Seoul.
And the reasoning that Jamsil will be able to welcome spectators has also been questioned, since it isn't even the league's largest arena.
The Busan-based KT SonicBoom play in the KBL's largest facility, the Sajik Arena, which holds 14,000 spectators, a thousand more than Jamsil Stadium. The rest of the league's buildings hold less than 7,000.
And the decision seems to go against the KBL's stated goal of connecting with each region of Korea, when the league began in 1997.
The decision also means that any Seoul-based team will automatically have home-court advantage against a team from outside Seoul, regardless of the order of finish in the regular season.
For example, if the top ranked SonicBoom met the sixth-ranked Seoul-based Samsung Thunders in the final, the SonicBoom would end up playing four games on the road in a seven-game series.