9.19.2008

The Not So Green Mile: The First Comeback

Bill Walton's Final Months as a Boston Celtic

Comeback Game 1

Bill Walton's return to the Celtics lineup has revived talk of another NBA championship. But it remains to be seen whether the injury-prone 34-year-old backup center with the troublesome right ankle can make it all the way back again.

Coach K.C. Jones and the players were pleased with Walton's season debut against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night at Boston Garden. But their comments were restrained. They were careful not to put an unneccessary burden on the big guy whose 12-year pro career has been interrupted several times by assorted foot and ankle injuries.

Encouraging from the Celtics' standpoint was that Walton said yesterday he had experienced no soreness or stiffness from his 4 minutes 21 seconds as Robert Parish's replacement against the Suns. His debut was unspectacular. He had only one rebound, committed two fouls and blew an easy layup. However, it would have been unfair to expect anything else from Walton. He was reactivated just two hours prior to the game.

Comeback Game 2

Bill Walton played 12 useful minutes in only his second game back. He had 5 defensive rebounds, blocked 3 shots, made 1 nice assist and started the only Celtic fast break emanating from a defensive rebound all evening.

"Bill did better," said Bird. "He's a little out of sync, but he hasn't played basketball in seven months. I missed three days and I'm a little out of sync."

"I felt a little more comfortable tonight," Walton said. "I got more time and I was out there more, which is important. I was out there three different times, and that felt good. But I have a long way to go."


Wooden Visits Walton

Bill Walton's spirits, already soaring since his activation on Wednesday, reached new heights yesterday morning when he was able to show off his skills before his idol, John Wooden. The Wizard of Westwood is here in connection with the NCAA Midwest Regional and paid a visit to the Celtics' shootaround session at Market Square.

When the regular workout was over, Walton engaged Kevin McHale in a spirited one-on-one match. Things were getting so fierce that K.C. Jones thought he'd better call it off. "Why'd you do that?" inquired McHale. "I want him (Walton) to save it for the game," K.C. explained. Jones hoped to play Walton somewhat longer than the four minutes he tried on Wednesday. The coach wanted to throw Walton back in the game during the second half against Phoenix, but the situation didn't present itself.

Comeback Game 3

Bill Walton wasn't kidding when he said he wasn't out of the woods. Game 3 of his comeback was a grim affair. He had no rebounds in 11 minutes and treated the basketball as if it were a live grenade.

Comeback Game 4

Bill Walton's graph line shot upward again. He had his problems in Milwaukee, but last night had 6 rebounds, a block and some alterings in 18 solid minutes of play. With Bill Walton back, the Celtics now have a chance to construct a workable second unit. There was a glimmer of things to come on Friday, as Walton improved dramatically in his second appearance and Darren Daye came through with a sound relief effort. "The bench could become very competitive with the starters," says Jones. "That could be a motivator for the first unit." . . . Only Walton knows how much pain remains in his injured right ankle, and he isn't saying. "He'll never let on," says one Celtic.

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