Bill Walton Talks About Lillard's 'Dynamism' And The Opportunities Ahead For Portland
On September 14, the incomparable Bill Walton was in Portland to receive the Enforcer Award during the third annual Maurice Lucas Foundation Celebration and Auction. The event raises money for the foundation which honors the great Maurice Lucas, who was one of Walton's best friends as well as his favorite teammate, through the context of "teaching life lessons through sport." The event drew the likes of Lionel Hollins, Bill Russell, Lloyd Neal, Bobby Gross and Bill Schonely, all of whom reminisced with Walton at one time or another about their glory days in Portland (except for Russell, of course), which culminated with an NBA Championship in 1977.
But while much of the time was spent telling stories of Lucas, who was renowned for both his toughness and generosity, Walton also discussed the current state of the Trail Blazers, a team that Walton, despite originally leaving the team on less-than-cordial terms, seems to have more affinity for than his other NBA stops.
"A team in transition on the court and in the front office," said Walton while snacking on hors d'oeurves and pausing to take the occasional photo with anyone who had the courage to ask. "It's a great chance. New start, fresh identity, let's get going. New business models, new players but you still have the foundation, the foundation of these incredible fans in this great place. People who want to be here. An exciting time and a chance for the players to build lives for themselves in a remarkable culture and environment."
One of those players is Damian Lillard, whose play during one of the most successful rookie campaigns in Trail Blazers history has raised expectations for the upcoming season. Walton said that Lillard reminds him of two of his former teammates, both in the way he plays and how he carries himself.
"Fun, a real fun player," said Walton of Lillard. "I remember running with Bobby (Gross) and Lionel (Hollins), how fun it was, what special players they were and really are. Damian is a lot like that because yes, he's got a dazzling game, but really it's his personality, the same thing that defines any great talent. He has a personality and a dynamism about him that inspires, rallies and ultimately builds communities. We're very hopefully and we're extremely confident about him and his chances to lead this team to the Promised Land."
As for his own immediate future, Walton, who got back into broadcasting basketball games last year for the Sacramento Kings and the Pac-12, said that he's "fully scheduled for the next 65 years" after completing a series of surgeries which has freed his body from the crippling pain he's endured for decades.
"I'm busier than I've ever been, I'm happier than I've ever been and I haven't been this healthy since high school," said Walton. "Just had my knee replaced five months ago. I hurt that knee when I was 14 and I dragged it around for 46 years. Finally it would work no more forever. Now I have a new knee to go with my new spine and I'm just getting started in my new life."
As Walton starts what he describes as a "new life," the Trail Blazers prepare a new season with a revamped roster stocked with new players. But even with new beginnings, both parties have an opportunity to build on past successes, which is something the Trail Blazers and Walton himself are surely looking forward to.
"These guys have a chance to build on the legacy of greatness that has defined this franchise," said Walton. "What more could you ask for in life?"