Bill Walton Returns to Portland

February 16, 1983
Bill Walton doesn't have time to think about homecomings. He has other things on his mind.

''I really didn't think about how the fans would receive me,'' said Walton, who received a standing ovation after making his first appearance in Portland as a player in nearly five years Tuesday night. ''I just wanted to play well. And we played a good ball game.'' 

Walton, who led the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA title, scored 15 points for San Diego in theClippers' 115-106 loss to the Blazers. His last appearance in Portland as a player was on April 21, 1978, when he suffered a foot injury while playing for the Blazers in the playoffs.

Before this season, Walton had played just 14 games for San Diego in 1979-80 since his injury with Portland.

Calvin Natt scored 21 points and Jim Paxson added 17 for Portland.

''Paxson hurt us a lot quickly underneath,'' Walton said. ''Their whole team hurt us underneath. We just didn't play well well enough to win. They (Portland) built that 14-point lead (in the second period) and it took a lot for us to get back into the game.

Walton, who had 9 rebounds and 5 assists while playing about half the game, added, ''I still have a long way to go but I'm happy to be playing.''

San Diego led 28-25 after one period but hit only five field goals in the second quarter, allowing Portland to take a 59-45 halftime lead.

Portland led 86-76 after three quarters. San Diego closed to within five twice in the fourth quarter on jump shots by Walton and another former member of the Blazers' championship team, Lionel Hollins. But the Blazers rebuilt their lead to 13 and San Diego couldn't catch up.

Hollins said Walton will make a big difference for the Clippers.

''He is such a great player, the best in the NBA,'' Hollins said. ''With him coming back we're going to be a good team. We've played well since Bill came back and now we've got Bobby Gross (another starter on Portland's 1977 NBA title team). We're going to improve but first we have to get to know each other.''

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