Postscript on the Walton-Maxwell Trade

September 7, 1985


He was a coveted coin flip draft pick and a league MVP before broken bones broke his promise. Now he is a Celtic, and he has a chance to play in "the big games" for the first time since his major injury of 1978.

After two months of excruciating negotiations (stretching back to the days when the Red Sox were pennant contenders, if you can remember that far back), 6-foot-11-inch center Bill Walton officially joined the Boston Celtics yesterday. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for eight-year veteran Cedric Maxwell , plus the Celtics' 1986 No. 1 draft pick and cash.

While Boston's commuter crowd was gripped in rainy, Friday afternoon gridlock, the Celtics presented Walton to the Boston media in the form of a tiny squawk box. Speaking from his home in San Diego, Walton said, "It feels really good to get it out of the way. I hope to be coming to Boston very soon."

He will wear No. 5 (last worn by John Thompson) and will be asked to play back-up center and back-up forward. He will move his wife and four sons to New England, but he will not transfer from Stanford to Harvard Law School.

"I'm halfway through law school, but I'm transferring to the Boston Celtics to play basketball," said Walton.

The oft-injured center-forward said that joining the Celtics should "certainly" prolong his career. With Messrs. Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale starting, Walton knows he won't be asked to contribute 35 minutes per game.

"Obviously my playing time will be dictated by the coach, K.C. Jones," said Walton. "By playing too much I develop stress in my lower leg. That's one of the nice things about coming to Boston. Most likely, the minutes will be kept down . . . The big problem is that I can't play 35-40 minutes a game.

"I think my skill level is still good."

Skill level, indeed. When talks about Walton's possible wearing of the green first came up, in June, no one less than Bird said, "If we get Bill Walton, we're gonna be three times the team we were this year. He clogs up the middle, he's a great shot blocker and intimidator. And he can shoot and pass. He won't need to score with us, but he could give Robert some rest . . . When he's feeling good, there's nobody better than Bill Walton."

At the top of his game, in 1977-78, Walton was considered one of the most complete pivotman in NBA history. During that MVP season, he averaged 18.9 points, 13.2 rebounds and five assists per game while leading the Portland Trail Blazers to a 50-10 record. It was then that he suffered a break of the tarsal navicular bone (below the left ankle). The Blazers would finish 58-24.

Walton played in only 14 games during the next four seasons. Since coming out of retirement in 1982-83 he has fractured a bone in his hand and had surgery for a bone spur of his right foot.

Walton was relatively injury-free last season and played in a career-high 67 games, averaging 10.1 points, nine rebounds and 2.1 blocks for the lowly Clippers. He was a free agent at the end of the year and made it clear that he wanted to join the Celtics.

The former UCLA great reportedly made substantial financial concessions in order to join the Celtics. He will earn a guaranteed $450,000 per year for the next three seasons. He wouldn't comment on the interminable negotiations.

"I'm a different person than I was 12 years ago and a different basketball player. In some aspects I'm better and in some aspects I'm worse. Certainly when you're 33 there's some things you don't think you can do anymore."

One thing he doesn't do much is practice. Walton missed a lot of practices while playing for the Clippers in the last three seasons and folks who saw him claim that the inactivity hurt his timing and passing skills.

Will he practice with the Celtics?

"I don't really know," said Walton. "We're going to have to work out something. I don't think it's going to be a problem. It would depend on how much I played the night before."

"Come on," his agent said, "Walton would sell his soul to get out of there on the parquet."

Maxwell was introduced at a news conference in Los Angeles, joking, "I'm just taking up Bill Walton's spot. Don (coach Don Chaney) has already told me I don't have to practice, which is perfect. I never liked to practice in Boston either."

Asked about the Celtics, Maxwell added, "I'd like to wish them well even though they didn't wish me well . . . I've got 30 pairs of green tennis shoes. I'm going to spray-paint them white. I don't want to see anything green again unless it's money."

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