What is Bill Walton's Favorite Memory from the 1985-86 Season?
January 15, 2012
It has been 26 years since Walton joined the Celtics as a replacement for Cedric Maxwell and helped the team win its 16th title. He was at the tail end of his career, relegated to reserve duty because of years of foot injuries. But he played a career-best 80 games as a 33-year-old, averaging 7.6 points in 19 minutes. For that one season, his body cooperated
"I was a Celtic fan growing up as a boy; Bill Russell was my favorite player ever," he said. "It was a very, very spe-cial team that could beat anybody any way. Larry Bird, who was the greatest player I ever played with, Kevin McHale, the second-greatest low-post player I ever played against, all the guys made the team so much fun
"The day I beat Kevin McHale one-on-one in practice in front of the whole Celtic family, that's what stands out." If you're wondering about the greatest low-post player Walton played against, it was his first NBA rival, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "Kareem was the greatest player I ever played against, regardless of position, by far, not even close," he said
The current Celtics may be slightly reminiscent of that '86 team, with a roster full of players in their final productive years. The question is whether they are capable of another championship run
"[Rajon] Rondo is the key, but the domination of the paint - which puts incredible pressure on Kevin Garnett - ul-timately [will be most important]," he said. "Kevin Garnett is not a center. He is a forward, and those are completely different positions
"While he can play limited amounts of time at center, that's not his game. That means Jermaine O'Neal and Bran-don Bass have to carry extremely heavy burdens.
"It's a young man's game, and right now the Miami Heat are the best team in the Eastern Conference. They're a lot younger, and they can run faster, harder, and longer, and that comes back to Rondo as the critical component."
But it is possible for an older team to prevail, Walton added
"If the players will listen to the coach, and if the players will make the sacrifices, it can happen," he said.
Is there need for Sheed?
Rasheed Wallace has given indications that he wants to make a return - and he astutely never filed retirement pa-pers when he left the Celtics after the 2009-10 season. Wallace showed up to a Paul Pierce event over the summer in better shape than he was during his final season, and he has kept a home in Boston during his respite
While the Celtics don't regret signing Wallace to a two-year deal, they were disappointed that he did not work him-self into top condition that season. He had to come out of Game 7 of the NBA Finals because of exhaustion
Wallace may have some value around the league as a top post defender despite his age (37). But the Celtics will not be in the market for an aging center whose casual approach was a concern even when he was surrounded by role models such as Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Wallace appeared convinced that he wanted to retire after the Finals but he never filed the paperwork. His $6 mil-lion salary came off the Celtics' books last season. There will be interest in Wallace among title-contending teams with strong coaches, but it may take him the majority of the regular season to get back into playing shape
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