But even Bill Walton, who himself made the initial phone call to Red Auerbach that culminated in his leaving the lowly Los Angeles Clippers to join the mighty Boston Celtics, may not have fully appreciated his new environment until the pre-game announcements that kicked off the Celts' exhibition season against Philadelphia last Friday night at Boston Garden. "At center, number five, from U...C...L...A..." boomed P.A. announcer Andy Jick, who didn't get to finish. The crowd went wild as Walton trotted out, head bobbing as usual. The standing ovation continued for almost a minute. Thus began a love affair that seems as strange as it does wonderful.
"The tremendous community support, the love of basketball—the relationship that exists between the fans and the team was sort of startling to me, frankly," Walton had said earlier in the week, while sprawled on the grass at the Celts' training site in Brookline, Mass. "I definitely missed it with the Clippers. We had very, very intense fans at UCLA, and it was the same way at Portland [where Walton helped the Trail Blazers win their only NBA title, in 1977]," he said. "And it looks like it will be even greater here. I almost can't believe it."
It was indeed an instant and mutual love affair.