Notebook: An upbeat Walton returns to Portland
PORTLAND — An upbeat, re-energized Bill Walton walked through halls of the Rose Garden on Tuesday night. And when the legendary former Portland center spoke with the media prior to the Blazers’ game against Sacramento, he sounded a world removed from the apologetic, teary-eyed press conference he gave late last year.
“I’m starting my life up and over again,” Walton said. “Bill Walton 15.0.”
Walton, 57, stated that he has several new job opportunities and is heavily involved in charity work. The high level of activity has the ex-Blazer once again excited about his life and future prospects.
“I’m doing much, much better,” Walton said. “I feel great.”
Walton was greeted warmly by fans Tuesday while walking from a back hallway to the court, and he was deluged by autograph requests.
It was a much different scene than Oct. 16, 2009, when Walton unexpectedly apologized to Portland’s devoted fanbase during an impromptu press conference at the Rose Garden.
Walton starred for the Blazers from 1974-78, and played a key part in guiding the team to its lone NBA championship in 1977. But he left the franchise on poor terms, and his basketball career was plagued by injuries and inconsistency. Walton missed 762 games during his career, the equivalent of more than nine full seasons of action.
He said last October he had undergone 36 orthopedic operations to address a variety of ailments. And Walton acknowledged Tuesday that he was dealing with two broken bones, including a fractured pelvis, during his apologetic press conference. However, the injuries had not been diagnosed at the time, and the pain compounded Walton’s personal feelings of loss and regret.
But the hurt was washed away Tuesday. And when Walton was introduced during a first-quarter timeout at halfcourt, and handed a personalized Rip City jersey by former Blazer announcer Bill Schonely, a sellout crowd stood up and showered Walton with nearly 30 seconds’ worth of praise.
Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he is not concerned by a recent lack of offensive production from small forward Martell Webster.
Since tying a career high with 28 points Feb. 16 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Webster has been held to eight points or less in his last 10 games. The fifth-year player has averaged just 3.6 points on 25-percent shooting during the stretch, including six outings with four points or less.
Still, McMillan said the sudden change in Webster’s minutes has made the biggest impact on his decreased production. Sandwiched between reserves Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless in the rotation, Webster is dealing with a “difficult role.”
“I’ve tried to use him and get him minutes,” McMillan said. “If he’s going, then we get him more.”
Newly acquired point guard Travis Diener has yet to record a second of court time for the Blazers since signing with the team March 3 as a free agent.
Despite his lack of playing time, Diener said he is ready to answer whenever McMillan calls his number.
“I’ve just got to stay focused,” Diener said. “You never know what might happen.”
McMillan said he has only been able to evaluate Diener in practice, and added that the veteran is unlikely to take the court due to Portland’s depth at the guard position. Moreover, McMillan acknowledged that Diener was “insurance.”
“He was basically a guy that we brought in, in case one of our guards went down,” McMillan said.