With playing time low, Walker hopes Wolves will buy him out

MINNEAPOLIS -- The NBA's trade deadline passed without movement for Antoine Walker, an accomplished if aging veteran stuck on the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves without much opportunity for playing time.

The 31-year-old asked to be dealt to another team before the deadline last Thursday afternoon, but that didn't happen. So Walker has been hoping this week the Wolves will buyout his contract in time to allow him to clear waivers and join a playoff contender by Saturday. That would make him eligible for the postseason roster.

"We're trying to figure out a number that's fair for both sides," Walker said Tuesday before Minnesota's game against the Utah Jazz.

Walker, who is making $8.5 million this season and is scheduled to draw $9.3 million next season, does not want to give up much of his guaranteed money. The Wolves have already coughed up millions to buy out Juwan Howard and Troy Hudson within the past year, however, and are not eager to do that again. Walker could be a valuable trade asset this summer, so holding onto him for now is more likely.

"I'm not sure anything's going to happen or not," agent Mark Bartelstein said. "We'll see. We've had conversations. If we can't get something worked out, then he'll stay there."

The Wolves are trying to evaluate a handful of young forwards, so on a team destined for the lottery there is little need to use Walker for more than token minutes. With the recent return of center Theo Ratliff from injury, there is even less time in the frontcourt to go around.

Walker, acquired during training camp from the Miami Heat for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount, is frustrated with his role -- though he has been consistently polite and respectful and visibly supportive of Minnesota's myriad youngsters.

"He's a pro. There's no question," Bartelstein said. "He's going to be doing it the right way, no matter what happens."

Through a team spokesman, Kevin McHale declined to comment. And coach Randy Wittman is tired of talking about Walker's status.

"Antoine has done a fabulous job since he's been here, and I know that he probably wants to be in a different situation," Wittman said. "With Theo coming back, we need to look at certain guys and it's going to cut into his time right now. I don't know how else you want me to answer it."