Photo: Henry Walker #5 of the Miami Heat brings the ball up court against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 16, 2015 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE – Restrained by knee injuries, the promising pro career of Henry Walker, the baller formerly known as Bill Walker, did not exactly take off like he had hoped it would.
After being chosen in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft (17th pick and 47th overall), Henry bounced between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks and was relegated to the National Basketball Developmental League (NBDL) four times.
Waived by the Knicks in April 2012, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Walker took his sneakers to the Venezuelan League and played for Trotamundos de Carabobo. And in the 2014 Governor's Cup, he suited up for the Alaska Aces in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Back in the NBA as a member of the Miami Heat, Walker has come full circle. Fairly healthy and with a new-found confidence plucked from years of hard work, Walker's talent is finally emerging, like the fragile tendrils of unfolding spring.
I caught up with the 26-year-old Kansas State University in Milwaukee, where the Miami Heat lost a heart-breaking 89-88 decision against the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
NBA.com Philippines: How much exploring were you able to do during your brief stint in the Philippines and did you try some of our food?
Henry Walker: Oh no, I didn't do too much exploring. They tried to give me one time with some "adidas" or something. So I ate that (chicken feet) and I was done with that.
NBA.com PH: Did you try some "helmet" (chicken head) and "balut" (duck embryo)?
Walker: No, I didn't try anything after they tried to trick me with the chicken feet (laughs).
NBA.com PH: Any thoughts on the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight?
Walker: I think Floyd will get him, but I think it's going to be an exciting fight because, you know, Manny is a great fighter too. But I don't know. I don't want people in the Philippines to start hating me because I vote Floyd.
NBA.com PH: It's been quite a journey for you from the draft to the D-League, overseas, and now playing really good minutes. How satisfying has the ride been?
Walker: I really can't tell you. I'm just in the moment right now, trying to do the best I can, work hard every day. So, probably when I get old and not playing anymore I'll have time to reflect and look back.
NBA.com PH: You didn't miss a shot tonight, 3-for-3, do you think you should be more involved in the offense and get more touches?
Walker: I took the shots that were available. I didn't play outside of my game, you know what I'm saying? I know what I can and can't do. I'm just trying to fit in with the team, space the floor, take the shots I can.
Photo: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers battles for position against Henry Walker #5 of the Miami Heat on March 16, 2015 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA.com PH: Any message to your fans and friends in the Philippines?
Walker: I'd like to give a special shout out to all of Aces Nation. To CK my man, Tony, Bugs, Ping and all those guys.
Walker struck me as polite and introspective, a smart young man who is wiser beyond his 27 years.
And he got game, too.
Walker is a high 45.1 percent shooter throughout his 172-game NBA career. He can guard multiple positions, swish a spot-up 3, and with the efficient use of a few dribbles, create his own shot.
Including this season's pro-rated $115, 422 salary from the Heat, Walker has so far banked $2.1 million in NBA earnings, according to basketballreference.com.
Early today, Walker earned his pay by making 4-of-8 triples and finishing with 12 points to help the Heat topple the Boston Celtics, 93-86, and preserve Miami's 7th place spot in the tightly-contested Eastern Conference playoffs race.
Although he is used to extensive travel, it doesn't seem like Walker is going anywhere any time soon. Miami is his home now, and hopefully, he'll be there in many more NBA seasons to come.