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9.19.2008

The Not So Green Mile: The Second Comeback

Bill Walton's Final Months as a Boston Celtic

4/21

Onto the floor beginning the second quarter stepped Bill Walton the way he does, toes first, then heel, toes, heel, insecure bones and sagging joints readying for one more go.

He played. Oh, did he play. In seven wondrous minutes of shot-blocking, rebounding and passing, a 32-29 Celtics deficit became a 47-36 Boston advantage. When Walton returned to his seat, winded, perhaps in pain though he never will say, this most important game had been decided. There were many factors in Boston's startling 108-85 victory over Indiana last night, but none more meaningful or ominous than the misleading 6 rebounds, 4 points and 3 assists Walton compiled in 15 minutes.

"The way he rebounded and passed was the way he played last year," said Larry Bird (31 points, 12 rebounds), who was first off the bench to greet Walton during a timeout in the fourth quarter. "It just amazes me. He hasn't practiced all this time.

If we can get Kevin (McHale) back, and with the way Walton played -- if tonight is an indication of the way he's going to play in the playoffs, if he plays the way he did tonight -- we are going to have an awesome basketball team."

Though Atlanta still trails Boston by a game in the race for best record in the East, the Celtics and their fans will keep a closer watch on Walton in the remaining regular-season days. All are wary of the pain Walton may feel when he wakes up any given postgame morning. "That's one of the hardest things about stress fractures," Walton said. "You don't really know when you're better."

Walton seemed to be the sprocket that made the whole traveling machine work as it hasn't in weeks.

4/22

Larry Bird on Walton's return: "If Bill can just finish out the season and we can play hard, maybe people are going to stop talking bad about the Celtics."

4/23

Larry Bird on Bill Walton: "If the crowd would stop cheering him and start booing him, maybe he'd play better."

4/24

Bill Walton played 11 minutes and didn't have anywhere near the impact on the game he did Wednesday night. He's still in a one-step-forward, one-step-backward stage, which is scary for this time of year.

4/27

Bill Walton has adopted a policy of pretending Bill Walton didn't play, deflecting all queries as to his status into responses regarding the Big Picture. Here, therefore, is Bill Walton on his very solid 17-minute, 9-rebound performance yesterday: "This is a 'we' game. Our goal is to win the championship. We've got to do everything we can to accomplish that goal."

You can again safely say that without Walton the Celtics would not have won.

Parish was in foul trouble early, and Walton gave the club 17 vital minutes, hauling in 9 rebounds while playing with a contagious joie de vivre at both ends of the floor. "I could see it coming in practice yesterday," revealed Jones. "His body is starting to catch up with his mind, which moves awfully fast."

Walton played the first 6:21 of Period 2 as the Celtics moved from a 30-30 one-period situation to a 45-38 lead when The Chief returned. But the best test came a period later. Parish picked up his fourth personal with 9:11 left in the third.

Seven seconds later Walton returned, and he stayed out there for the remainder of the period, during which time he was assaulting the glass continually as the Celtics went up by as many as 11 (70-59, after holding previous 11-point advantages of 62-51, 64-53 and 66-55).

Walton even stuck in a needed baseline jumper with 1:26 to go in the period, making it 82-72.

4/29

The return of Bill Walton (do you have something wooden to knock on?) has made Greg Kite an extinct species. Since the Redhead suited up against Indiana on April 15, Kite has played three minutes, and then only because it was garbage time

5/6

Bill Walton was a valuable contributor with 7 rebounds, 4 assists and an overall dominating presence at both ends. "I don't see where there is a whole lot of difference between Walton now and last year," said Don Nelson, "although he's probably not quite as sharp as he was then. But I emphasize the word 'quite.'"

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