Mountain Man's Days in Portland May be Numbered
August 12, 1978
One of the reasons Bill Walton might sign to play basketball in San Francisco is that he could walk down the street to hear a Grateful Dead concert.
Some people would rather be run over by a train, which is a quieter way to go, but you know how some people are.
Jack Scott, who talks for and represents Walton, first said the NBA's best player wants to leave the Portland Blazers because the team gave him a pain-killing injection in a broken foot.
It seemed strange that Walton didn't complain about it until last week, four months after the shot. Perhaps the big guy was busy going to concerts and forgot about it. The Grateful Dead can make your head numb.
Some people suggested Walton's complaint was symptomatic of a little-known disease called San Diego Itch. SDI affects only 7-foot natives of San Diego, and the only known cure is to go home and stand in tubs full of warm money.
Until six weeks ago, SDI was dormant because the city had been out of basketball seven years. But now it has rejoined the NBA, and the Itch quickly spread to the great Northwest, where Bill Watson, a 7-foot native of San Diego, noticed an unsettling tingling in his extremities.
"Jack, dear confidant/biographer/adviser/ventriloquist, my toes are itching," Walton said to Scott. "Do you suppose it could be a slide effect of the pain-killing injection I took four months ago?"
"It's in your contract, Bill, that the Trail Blazers cannot give you pain-killers," Scott said, speaking for himself.
"But I agreed to it."
"You know that I know that, but do you think the Trail Blazers want to go to court about it?"
Scott touched Walton's toes and said, "My long experience in sports tell me you have developed a terrific - er, terrible - case of San Diego Itch, Scott said. "Even now, as any doctor could see, your toes are heading south."
And Scott, with his hand at Walton's back, pulled strings that caused the big guy to scratch his toes.
So now the Bill Walton auction is under way, with Scott having announced that Walton has chosen to negotiate with seven teams, the grand-prize winner being the one that best satisfies Walton's desires for championships, teamwork and living conditions.
Oh, yes. And money.
Scott said Walton, as a wide-eyed innocent fresh out of college, was "looking for paradise." Instead, he found Portland. Now Walton knows how the world operates, Scott suggested, and he is going to make the most of it.
So let's start the bidding at $1 million a year, Scott said.
Representatives from San. Diego, New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia have visited Walton/Scott so far. Other teams will talk to him, too.
"Before making a decision, Bill will go and visit some of the players on which he has an interest," Scott said yesterday, "to get their views of him, and his role on their team, and they his views on his concepts of team play and winning championships. He and they will want to determine if they can play with basketball compatibility."
Really, folks, that's what the man said.
All this could make for some fascinating conversations in NBA offices.
Imagine the new owner of the Boston Celtics, the ex-fried chicken king John Y. Brown Jr., trying to talk Red Auerbach into signing up Walton.
"Look, Red, the kid can play," Brown says.
"He'll cost us more than you paid Colonel Sanders to fry chicken," Auerbach says.
"Money's no object. Red, what do you know about the Grateful Dead?"
"Nobody is grateful to be dead."
"It's a rock group, Red, and Walton likes them. Scott said Walton could play in San Francisco because he could walk down the street and see the Grateful Dead."
"We're hiring this guy to play basketball or listen to records?" Auerbach says. "And what's this bullfeathers from Scott about Walton talking to players to see if they are compatible?"
"Walton says it's important that he and his teammates share the same ideas about how to win."
"He going to coach our team, too?" Auerbach says. "The guy has own one title in four years and he has sat out 119 games - 119 games - with injuries and he's got this bad foot now that they don't know when it'll be OK. He's on crutches. And they want a million dollars a year."
"But we can win with him, Red."
"Hey, John, we won 11 titles in 13 years with a center named Bill Russell who didn't go around asking anybody anything except what time they throw the ball up. And when he did talk, the words came out his very own mouth and they didn't say anything about how grateful he was to be dead."
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