Bill Walton

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

If ever it was no surprise that somebody was going to have to sit out a game because of back spasms, it’s tonight with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The man has been carrying this team on his back all season, leading the league in minutes – and those were some pretty stressful, high-usuage-rate minutes, at that. No wonder Damian Lillard has back spasms.

You don’t believe in load management? Well, you probably don’t believe in flu shots, either, right?

It’s the same thing. You don’t have the flu when you get that shot -- you get the shot to keep you from having the flu. Same with load management. You are healthy enough to play in a game, but rather than stress your body another night, you rest. You rest to prevent injuries – which is easier than trying to treat the injury once you get it. And you stave off fatigue that comes from piling game on top of game.

The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a six-game road trip that offers too much travel, too many games and are tonight playing the second of back-to-back games. Lillard should probably sit this game out even if his back wasn’t hurting.

More and more, people are coming to realize that the density of the schedule combined with a lack of sleep that occurs because of the crazy cross-time-zone travel leads to fatigue. And fatigue leads to injuries.

The Trail Blazers, for whatever reasons, have refused to rest healthy players over the years. Part of this, I’m sure, is because the players themselves wish to play. And the team wants to win every possible game in order to make the playoffs. But that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to step up and protect players from themselves. Particularly a player such as Lillard, who knows how important he is to his squad.

Will resting players cause losses? Yes, of course. Not all the time, but sometimes. But would you rather lose a player for three months because of a severe injury, or just lose a game or two here or there?

And when I think back about the troubles this team has had keeping franchise players healthy, I believe more than ever that load management could have been an answer.

Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy – would any of them have lasted a little longer with a lighter load? Maybe sitting out a game here and there or playing with a limit on minutes? I think that’s possible.

Obviously, there is no way to prove any of those players – or Lillard – would have profited from load management, but I’d certainly favor giving it a try.

And at some point, the league is going to have to explore shortening the schedule. This is too much and players are paying a price for it.

Portland Trail Blazers All-Decade Team: The 1970s

Portland Trail Blazers All-Decade Team: The 1970s

It's Decade Night at the Moda Center on Saturday as the Trail Blazers celebrate their 50th Anniversary season!

In the first of five special theme nights, Saturday is all about celebrating the 70s of Trail Blazer basketball. 

With that, let's take a look below, and in the video above at our Top 5 Players of the 1970s:

Bill Walton ('74-'79)

Possibly the GOAT as far as Trail Blazers go, the big man was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and is listed as one of the league's all-time Top 50 Players. 

Walton led Portland to its only Championship in 1977 and won the Finals MVP. He is also the only Blazer to win League MVP when he won it in '78-'79. 

Maurice Lucas ('76-'80)

Lucas was the starting power forward for the 1977 Championship team playing alongside Bill Walton. He was a five-time NBA All-Star and twice named to the All-Defense Team. 

He averaged 15.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in five seasons as Trail Blazer. 

Lionel Hollins ('75-'80)

The starting point guard on the '77 Championship team who averaged 13.9 points and 4.4 assists in five seasons with the Trail Blazers. 

He made the All-Rookie Team, was twice named to the All-Defensive Team and made the All-Star Team once. 

Geoff Petrie ('70-'76)

The original Trail Blazer! Petrie was the first player ever drafted by the franchise and won Rookie of the Year in 1971 and was also a two-time All-Star. 

For three seasons, he averaged more than 24 points per game in an era before the 3-point line!

Bob Gross ('75-'82)

Another member of the 1977 Championship Team, starting small forward Bob Gross makes the list.

Gross was a 1978 All-Defensive Team player and finished third in NBA Finals MVP voting the year Portland won the title behind Bill Walton and Julius Erving. 

 

Biking with Bill Walton -- a perfect start to Blazers 50th Anniversary Season

Biking with Bill Walton -- a perfect start to Blazers 50th Anniversary Season

It was a blast from the past on Sunday afternoon in Portland.

There were plenty of tie-dye shirts, plenty of bicycles, and plenty of love for the Portland Trail Blazers during Sunday’s ‘Bike with Bill Walton’ event.

It was as if fans traveled back in time to 1977 when Portland took home its first and only Larry O'Brien trophy.

Trail Blazers legend and 1977 NBA Finals MVP Bill Walton was back in Rip City to bike ride with Blazers fans ahead of the team’s 50th anniversary season.

Fans young and old took part in the nearly two-mile route, which just so happened to be the 1977 Championship Parade route.

The event began at 2 p.m. Sunday, with fans gathering outside of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Walton led a pack of fans over the Broadway Bridge and through downtown to Terry Schrunk Plaza, the same spot that the Blazers’ championship parade ended 42 years ago.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I’m in Oregon today celebrating the rollout of the 50th Anniversary of all things Blazers, what could be better? I’m having the time of my life,” Walton told the media before hopping on his bike to ride through downtown.

During his playing days, it was very common to see Walton riding his bike to Blazers games. And, most Trail Blazers fans remember that he also rode to the championship parade in June of 1977, and then in all the madness he lost his bike.

Fortunately, a fan did return Walton’s bike back to him.

This past weekend’s bike ride was part of the Sunday Parkways Green Loop that is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Biking down the former parade route was a one of the best rides down memory lane for the Trail Blazers legend.

“June 5th, 1977, just like this [day,]” Walton said with a big smile.

“The greatest memories that any young man could possibly ever have,” Walton said. “This is where my dreams came true. The dream continues to expand. This is such a remarkable facility, state, community, town, everything here, and this is where I started. I started here 45 years ago and it was just spectacular.”

Walton wanted to make sure the media and fans knew that his teammate, the late Maurice Lucas, was represented on the bike ride by Maurice’s son David.

David rode Maurice’s old bike alongside Walton.

Walton made gave a lot of credit to Lucas. It’s apparent the genuine admiration Walton had and still has for The Enforcer.   

“Maurice is just the greatest teammate that I ever had and the reason why the Blazers were the best team in the land,” Walton said.     

The 2x All-Star had his worlds collide with his love of the Trail Blazers organization and his love for riding his bike.

“I would ride everywhere in Oregon. This is such a beautiful state,” Walton said.

“I’ve been riding my whole life,” Walton added. “I started when I was five years old. What bicycling is to me, it’s freedom, it’s independence, it’s empowering, it’s enabling… And I love my bike.”

After the bike ride ended around 3:30p.m., the Blazers made a special announcement revealing their Classic Edition jerseys for the upcoming season, which will be a retro look to celebrate 50 years as a franchise.  

After the jersey announcement it was time to celebrate.

Blazers fans were treated to live music from Grateful Dead cover band Garcia Birthday Band.

Walton helped out by playing the drums and singing along. 

Sunday’s bike ride was a perfect way to tip-off the Trail Blazers 50th Anniversary Season.

As Walton reflected on the past, he discussed how “everything” makes the Trail Blazers organization unique.

He also believes it was the people in Rip City that made it special.

“It’s always the people – just the quality and the spirit.” Walton said. “What I love is the collective sense of effort and purpose. What the Blazers do, what they’ve done, and what they’re going to do, with Jody Allen carrying over now for Paul, and the stability of the ownership, if you’re going to count Jody and Paul as one, there’s only been three owners in the history of the franchise, and so when you have the kind of stability, but more importantly the commitment, the commitment to excellence… That’s what make [the organization] so great.”

Trail Blazers announce special ‘Bike with Bill Walton’ event set for late August

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USA Today Images

Trail Blazers announce special ‘Bike with Bill Walton’ event set for late August

It’s time for Rip City to start celebrating.  

Earlier this month the Trail Blazers unveiled their new 50th Anniversary court that the team will playing on for all home games this season. The new design honors the 50th anniversary of the franchise and that’s just the beginning.

On Tuesday, the Blazers announced a special event called ‘Bike with Bill Walton’ that will have Blazers fans taking a trip down memory lane.

‘Bike with Bill Walton’ is a chance for fans to relive the 1977 Championship parade.

Join the Blazers on August 25th at 2 p.m. as fans bike from Veterans Memorial Coliseum to Terry Schrunk Plaza. At the end of the ride the Blazers will then have a special announcement.

[RELATED]: Blazers unveil special 50th anniversary court design

You can RSVP to the event on the Trail Blazers Facebook Page right here.

Can we have Bill Walton broadcast baseball games all the time?

Can we have Bill Walton broadcast baseball games all the time?

Former NBA and Trail Blazers star Bill Walton took over social media when he took over the broadcast booth on Friday night while working as a special guest analyst for the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels game in Anaheim.

Friday's game was broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago as Walton joined NBCS Chicago’s play-by-play host Jason Benetti.

The 1977 Trail Blazers champion was a fill-in for regular White Sox analyst Steve Stone.

The broadcast went just as you would imagine it to would.

SO MANY GREAT QUOTES.

Here are just a few of the top quotes of the night from Walton:

“Is that the catcher? I tell you I’m not a very good catcher…”

“Putting all the powers together of the rare Earth minerals, you’ve just come up with this incredible computer generated stud for the future.”

“Rainbow is my favorite color.”

“Good eye, good patience… You tell that pitcher to bring it right in here.”

“GO! GO! This is gonna be a run… Here we go Sox. Take me out to the ball game, I don’t care if I never come back!”

In the fifth inning, when Mike Trout hit his 41st home run of the season, Walton analyzed it as so:

"That's Trout? Swimming upstream, avoiding all the flies, and sending one ricocheting through the universe."

MLB fans took to Twitter to express their love of Walton’s calls. There's no doubt fans want Walton to be in the broadcast booth for more MLB games.

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

Can we call it the Blazers' "Case of the Cursed Centers?"

This story is painful for longtime Trail Blazer fans but it must be told. Can we call it the Case of the Cursed Centers?

It all started with Bill Walton. The All-America center out of UCLA was the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA draft. The franchise knew when it picked him that he’d been plagued by foot and leg problems but he was an elite player – an all-time great at the college level who was a can’t-miss pro.

Walton played in only a combined 86 games for Portland his first two seasons but the third season was a beauty. He was healthy for 65 games and through the playoffs, when he led his team to its one and only NBA championship and was the Finals MVP.

The following season he was the league’s Most Valuable Player but exited after 58 games with foot problems and never played another game for Portland.

Then came Sam Bowie, the second pick of the 1984 draft. He played 76 games as a rookie but only a combined 63 over the next four seasons, as leg injuries sidelined him and eventually led to a trade that brought Buck Williams from New Jersey. And oh yes, the Blazers took Bowie over Michael Jordan, as you remember.

In 2007, Portland again had the first pick in the draft and selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Oden played a total of 82 games over five seasons with the Blazers.

And now, of course, there is Jusuf Nurkic. In late March of 2017, he suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula and missed the final seven games of the regular season. He attempted a comeback in the playoffs but could handle only 17 minutes of one game.

Monday it got muck worse for Nukic, as everyone knows. He suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula and underwent surgery Tuesday.

Nurkic was moving toward becoming one of the top centers in the league and his net rating (10.4) is said to be the best by a Portland player since the stat was created in 2000.

What is it about the Trail Blazers' centers and their lower bodies? If you were a center and drafted by or traded to Portland, would you decline the opportunity and head to Europe? Invest big money in a company that manufactures crutches?

I’m not much of a believer in jinxes but is it fair to say the franchise is cursed? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Center is a basketball position that puts a lot of very large men in a small confined space near the basket where they often collide with each other. And often these men don’t seem to have lower limbs sturdy enough to handle the stress on their big bodies.

I’ve always thought these sorts of things even out over time. But as far as the Trail Blazers are concerned, that time can’t come soon enough.

This just hasn’t been fair.

My Blazers Pick 'Em team can beat your team

My Blazers Pick 'Em team can beat your team

My team can beat your team, I bet.

If you haven't taken part in "Blazers Pick'Em" yet, you should. Go to our website and find it here.

You get an opportunity to make up your own roster but with a twist. There's a limit, a kind of salary cap associated with your team. You have to be smart to pick up a few players on the cheap to supplement your stars -- just like a real NBA general manager.

Here's a look at my team:

  • Bill Walton -- my first choice. A former MVP of the Finals and a player who makes others better. At his healthy best, one of the greatest players of all time. If he isn't on your team, don't even talk to me.
  • Damian Lillard -- OK, this gives me two superstars to build my team around. A pick-and-roll with Lillard and Walton would be unstoppable and the ability of both players to play at clutch time would be tough to beat.
  • Buck Williams -- a bargain on the board. You go ahead and take Rasheed Wallace if you wish. Buck would pick him up and throw him in the Willamette River. A physical presence like no other.
  • Danny Ainge -- A tremendous competitor who knew how to win. A perfect role player alongside the stars of this team. And if you ever need a backup GM, he's your man.
  • Nic Batum -- Another bargain and a perfect fit on this roster because he can defend any position and would be happy with whatever shots he ended up with -- perfect fit.

 

A look back at Steve Jones, even before he became "Snapper"

A look back at Steve Jones, even before he became "Snapper"

In the days when he began work with the Trail Blazers as an on-air analyst – on television and radio – he was just plain Steve Jones, the former star at Franklin High, the University of Oregon and the ABA, where he was a three-time all-star.

He was, in fact, already well known for his basketball skills and later was inducted into the sports Halls of Fame for the Portland Interscholastic League, the University of Oregon and the state of Oregon.

But while working with Bob Costas at NBC, the “Snapper” nickname emerged, a reference to some secret story from the ABA, where Jones and Costas first met, the latter as the broadcaster for the Spirits of St. Louis. Soon, he was one of those one-name guys -- everybody in basketball knew who "Snapper" was.

Jones died Saturday at the age of 75, after battling a health condition for many years. Jones’ health problems began in 2006 when his appendix burst during a broadcast and he decided to finish the game before seeking medical help.

But the incident left toxins in his body that led to complications over many years that he could never quite overcome.

Jones played his final season of professional basketball as a Trail Blazer in 1975-76 and launched a 26-year broadcast career with the team after retirement as a player.

He worked with just about all the Trail Blazer play-by-play men -- Bill Schonely, Pat Lafferty, Pete Pranica, Eddie Doucette, Mike Barrett and even worked for one season with the Sonics in Seattle with current Portland broadcaster Kevin Calabro.

"I grew up watching and listening to Steve," Barrett told me Sunday. "It was always an education. I was humbled to eventually be able to work alongside him, He taught me so much in my early days as a play-by-play broadcaster -- about the league, the game, the road and so much more. I was so blessed to have known him."

I’ve always believed his brightest moments in broadcasting came when he was working alongside Bill Walton. The two forged a friendship and great chemistry as teammates with the Trail Blazers and Jones always had the ability to rein in Walton – something he did better than anybody ever has.

Their interchanges during broadcasts were priceless -- often either great basketball insight or just comedy gold.

At time he wasn’t easy to work with, as he wasn’t afraid to challenge his broadcast partners on the air. He was a guy who could pin a nickname on anyone (including me) and would bust your chops whenever he had the chance.

"He was a terrific guy," Schonely said. "He called me 'Pops.' Always upbeat with that big laugh. And he loved giving everybody a bad time -- and he loved every minute of it. He was a joy to work with and he laughed a lot. He was a good man."

And on the air, even though he loved the Trail Blazers, he was no homer. Of all the analysts the team has ever had, Jones was the one who most resisted over-selling the home team. He played it straight.

He’d often say, “The Trail Blazers just need to learn how they want to score the ball,” which was often code for “The right people have to be shooting.” He told it like it was -- and got away with it -- throughout his broadcasting career.

I believe, along with his attention to national network duties, his unbiased delivery may have eventually led to his quiet disconnect from the franchise in 2006, when his relationship with the organization ended without ceremony or tribute.

He was a noted contrarian. I had the opportunity in my many years of covering the team, to spend time talking basketball with him and what I remember most is his willingness to go against the grain.

If the talk, for example, would turn to the importance of defense in winning championships, Jones would boom his familiar laugh and shake his head.

“If your offense is good enough, nobody can beat you,” he said. “The team that scores the most points usually wins, right?”

The Trail Blazers brought him back from his home in Houston to honor him five years ago and it was a terrific gesture that seemed to lift his spirits. I had the opportunity to do one of my “Posting Up” shows with Steve during that time and it was a joy.

He became an icon in Portland and an important member of the NBA community. Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Saturday night:

The NBA family mourns the passing of Steve "Snapper" Jones - former Portland Trail Blazer, ABA All-Star and one of the NBA's all-time great TV analysts. We send our deepest condolences to his family and many friends.”

I considered Steve a friend and enjoyed the telephone conversations we had during his retirement years in Houston.

Even in retirement, he was opinionated and speaking his mind about the league he loved.  He taught me a lot about the NBA and basketball in general. I mourn his passing, kick myself for not staying in touch with him more frequently in recent years and wish the best to his family.

We lost one of the great Trail Blazers Saturday.