The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum was "Piston Nation" last night with a surprise visit by former Fort Wayne Mad Ant point guard Walker Russell Jr. during last night’s game against the Maine Red Claws. Walker D, as they call him up in Detroit, was called up to the Pistons late last month and is working hard at making his stay in the NBA a permanent one.
At half-time, the Mad Ants led the Red Claws 58-56 and during the intermission I was able to catch up with Russell and talk to him about his NBA experience. When talking about playing in the NBA Russell was all smiles.
"So far so good, it’s a dream come true. I’m playing some solid minutes, and the coaches have a lot more confidence in me now," Russell said.
That confidence showed the night before during the Piston’s game against the New Jersey Nets. Late in the fourth quarter, Russell came off the bench to try to help secure the win. Unfortunately, the Piston’s lost 99-96; however, Walker contributed a career-high 12 points, along with 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
When asked about putting up those types of numbers in the NBA, Russell said, "It feels great. What’s even greater is that I was in during crunch time. I appreciate the confidence that the coaches have in me and I just keep on learning from these experiences."
Walker spent part of the last five years in the D-League working to get an opportunity to play in the NBA. He only had positive things to say about how the NBA D-League prepared him to play at the highest level.
"The NBA is a lot faster and the guys are bigger. Besides that, the D-League does a good job of preparing guys. I feel like I was well-prepared, and people are saying that it looks like I’ve already adapted to the NBA and now I’m playing solid minutes," Russell said.
Adaptation is a recurring them when talking to Russell about the NBA. "You have to be faster, smarter and quick on your feet at this level. Adjustments, lots of adjustments in the NBA. Getting used to the adjustments and getting used to guys' tendencies, those are the major difference that I’ve noticed."
Walker Russell Jr. is a great example of hard work paying off. He crafted his game in the D-League, stayed hungry and worked his way in to a supporting role with the Detroit Pistons. During the Mad Ants game he greeted fans and graciously signed autographs for anyone who asked. Unfortunately, his presence was not enough to help the Mad Ants get past the Red Claws. Fort Wayne lost the game 115-109. Darnell Lazare led the Mad Ants with 31 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.
The revenge match is tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST. Unfortunately, Russell will not be in attendance. He will also be in action tonight when the Detroit Pistons take on the Milwaukee Bucks at The Palace of Auburn Hills.