Bill Walton's Final Months as a Boston Celtic
March 9, 1987
All along, the only prudent viewpoint to adopt has been "Seeing is Believing," and yesterday there finally was something to see.
Bill Walton played basketball at Hellenic College.
Specifically, Walton played some four-on-four halfcourt and some four-on- four fullcourt on a court about 75 feet long. He ran, he jumped, he passed, he rebounded, he dunked, he hooked, he sank jump shots and he appeared to be having a good time.
"I thought he looked fine," said Red Auerbach, who, along with general manager Jan Volk, monitored the proceedings carefully. "My main concern was his lateral movement, and he looked good to me. He wasn't jumping continually, but that's more of a conditioning process."
This was Day 3 of Walton's return to action. He worked out Saturday, mainly going over inside moves and doing some running. On Sunday he and a fellow (temporary) injury victim named Larry Bird worked out together. But yesterday was his first attempt at playing what could be termed "basketball" since the last few days of September.
The body on display was incredibly lean and this, too, pleased Auerbach. "One thing that surprised me," said the Cigar Smoker, "was the way he looked physically. He kept his weight down. Most athletes with an injury of that kind make the mistake of putting on weight, but he hasn't. I think he's taken some off. I've got to look at that as something upbeat."
Walton is a long way from being able to duel with the Malones, Olajuwons and Abdul-Jabbars of the world, however. "I saw him on Saturday," said Greg Kite, against whom Walton was matched up yesterday, "and so I had some idea what to expect. But I was surprised he could run up and down the floor as well as he did. But you can tell he hasn't been playing competitive basketball. His timing was way off."
Indeed, Walton twice in succession went for Kite fakes, allowing Greg a chance to score easy inside baskets. And, while he was rebounding and throwing those priceless outlet passes, he didn't come close to blocking any shots.
Still, he actually was playing basketball for the first time in five months, and that's encouraging. When Auerbach was asked if he were "cautiously optimistic," he replied, "You've got to be. You've got to take it day by day for a while. But let's see what happens when he gets bumped. He was very careful today not to get knocked down. If you're playing with Greg Kite, you have a good chance of getting knocked down."
Walton, meanwhile, wasn't talking about the experience, at least not yet.
The starting five was given the day off, and so was the coach. But Danny Ainge came over to observe Walton. "Other than running and jumping," Ainge quipped, "Bill looks good." . . . Bill should have told Danny that guys who shoot air balls that miss the whole set-up by three feet, as Danny did Sunday in the Silverdome, ought to keep their one-liners to themselves . . . The sides were Walton, Rick Carlisle, Darren Daye and Chris Ford against Kite, Fred Roberts (he doesn't qualify as a starter, obviously), Jerry Sichting and Conner Henry