Where's Walton? ... Day 18: Contemplating the End of the Curse in New Jersey
TUESDAY, MAY 7: EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
Hall of Famer and NBA on NBC analyst Bill Walton, who led his Portland Trail Blazers to an NBA championship 25 years ago, is making history once again as he "Loves it Live" by traveling to 30 NBA games in 30 days during NBA Playoffs 2002. Join Walton as he experiences the thrilling playoff excitement first hand, which is passionately documented in his daily reports on NBA.com along with an exclusive “Where’s Walton?” map
spotlighting his cross-country travels. Get on the Bus!
|By Bill Walton|
With cowbells still ringing in my head, the bus rolled out of Sacramento. I’m still blown away by the incredible nature of that game...
Walton is mobbed by energetic fans in the Meadowlands as the "Love It Live!" Tour visits the swamp on day 18.
The "Love It Live!" heads are coming out of the woodwork -- not to take me away – but to get on the bus. Tom Stack, a career Dead Head, who embodies the spirit and passion of the band’s music, reserved one of the few remaining spots for the rest of the tour... I KNOW THAT THERE’S HELP ON THE WAY... Welcome aboard, friend... As we were leaving California, a quick glance left and there on the northern horizon, was Mount Shasta, the extinct volcano – we hope – as we heard the last strains of Fire on the Mountain... ALMOST ABLAZE, STILL YOU DON’T FEEL THE HEAT... IT TAKES ALL YOU GOT JUST TO STAY ON THE BEAT...
The great community of spiritualists and humanists at Mount Shasta has always held a special place in my heart, to say nothing of the recreation possibilities, particularly, house boating on Lake Shasta. As the bus worked its way across on yet another cross-country extravaganza, I am reminded of just how lucky I am for the Love It Live Tour … and things just keeping getting better as both Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones announced dates for summer and fall tours. This madness will fortunately never end… PARADISE WAITS ... ON THE CREST OF A WAVE HER ANGELS IN FLAME...
HIDING ON THE BACKSTREETS ... WITH A LOVE SO HARD AND FILLED WITH DEFEAT ... RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES AT NIGHT ON THEM BACKSTREETS...
The bus finally pulled into East Rutherford today, via the Lincoln Tunnel... Fans were jazzed for a rare May playoff game at the Meadowlands... MY MACHINE SHE’S A DUD I’M STUCK IN THE MUD SOMEWHERE IN THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY Music blaring, Frisbees flying, banners waving, everyone "Loving It Live!"... As we made our mad dash over to the arena ... WELL THE NIGHT’S BUSTING OPEN ... THESE TWO LANES WILL TAKE US ANYWHERE... it gave us the chance to ponder the curse that has plagued the Nets for all of these years. What do you tell the fans, after you sell Dr.J? That we’re really for you? It was the same argument management used at the start of the championship season for the Blazers, when Portland traded a 21-year-old Moses Malone for a No. 1 draft choice. Moses went on to be a four-time MVP, World Champion, one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and a Hall of Famer. Nah, we didn’t need a guy like that.
The curse has run through this franchise – Micheal Ray Richardson, Drazen Petrovic, Jayson Williams. But I was reminded of the curses that have plagued me, from the time I stole Coach Wooden’s lucky penny. The curse that robbed us of our place in college basketball history. We let him have his way the first two years and we won every game. It wasn’t until I foolishly snatched that penny that our luck ran out. And it wasn’t until I went to French Lick, Ind., toward the end of my career, in the fall of ’85 and scooped up dirt off Larry Bird’s boyhood driveway court. I rubbed it on my legs before carrying it with me all season and eventually sprinkling it on my own boyhood court at my mom and dad’s house. The curse of the stolen penny was finally lifted.
After all of these years of trying to get better from these wretched legs that just wouldn’t carry me to all my dreams... CRIPPLED BUT FREE... I WAS BLIND ALL THE TIME ... I WAS LEARNING TO SEE... In the end, all it took was some dirt. I tried everything, from the engineering contraptions that tried to transfer and alleviate the physical stress loads, to the letter I received from the witch lady in the Philippines that said I had to go to the jungles of the remote islands and follow the directions on the map and turn left at the big tree and there behind the mammoth boulder would be the person who would remove the curse… The thing about curses is that you never know what it’s going to take to break them... IN FRANKLIN’S TOWER THERE HANGS A BELL …IT CAN RING, TURN NIGHT TO DAY .. IT CAN RING LIKE FIRE WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR WAY... That’s why, as we pull up to Exit 16 W Nets, maybe now the curse has finally been broken. The plans for the new building, maybe that will be it... IF I HAD MY WAY, I WOULD TEAR THIS OLD BUILDING DOWN – and you might as well tackle JFK while you’re at it …But more likely, it’s the people who are now involved who will rid this star-crossed franchise of the plague: Rod Thorn, Byron Scott, Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin -- if he could only channel his fury in more positive directions...
Bill takes a moment to pose with draft prospect and former Duke star Jason Williams.
The concerts that we attended at the Meadowlands and Giants Stadium, so many times with the Dead. I saw the same people in the parking lot tonight. The hundreds of thousands at Giants Stadium, the helicopter trips from Manhattan, over to the show. Springsteen, Dylan... Doing research on the way in today as the bus rolled on forever... WILD FLOWER SEED ON THE STAND AND STONE MAY THE FOUR WINDS BLOW YOU SAFELY HOME
... I was concerned about the premature published reports with regards to the MVP award. If those reports are true, than it’s not good for San Antonio and Charlotte. That’s only going to make Jason and Shaq mad. It’s one thing to make Jason mad, but Shaq – that’s another story.
Congratulations to Rick Carlisle for receiving Coach of the Year honors today, well deserved... As I saw Rick lift the trophy at the press conference today, I was reminded of Larry Bird in ’86 when during the playoffs, in Atlanta, they named Mike Fratello NBA Coach of the Year. We were stunned. K.C. Jones, our beloved leader and the most like Coach Wooden of any other coach that I ever played for, should have won that award. Larry was so mad. As they were getting ready to parade Fratello to center court to give him the trophy, Larry stood side by side with K.C. Jones. When the P.A. announced: ‘NBA Coach of the Year, Mike Fratello,’ Larry Bird reached out and grabbed K.C. Jones’ arm and raised it to the roof, like a referee at a boxing match, proclaiming the winner. Larry went out and torched the Hawks. There are some guys that you don’t ever want to make mad …
My vote for Coach of the Year this season went to Rick Adelman, although that was not the popular sentiment in Arco last night as I left the arena... ONE WATCH BY NIGHT, ONE WATCH BY DAY ... IF YOU GET CONFUSED LISTEN TO THE MUSIC PLAY...
QUOTE OF THE DAY
|“How about my Nets? I’ve been a Net fan my whole life ... I go way back ... Lu-cious Harr-is, Lu-cious Harr-is ... What college did he go to? ... SOMETIMES THE LIGHTS ALL SHINING ON ME ... Lu-cious Harr-is ... Lu-cious Harr-is”|
Storming, surging into the Meadowlands, the crowd ever so ready. While I was making last-minute preparations before they dimmed the lights for what promised to be an incredibly intense dramatic moment, low and behold, there was Jason Williams, giving me a much needed neck massage.
Jason and I go back a few years. His brilliance in the college ranks – composure, poise, championship demeanor -- were all learned at the hands of his wonderful family and his brilliant coach Mike Krzyzweski. An All-Star off the court as well, having graduated from Duke in three years. He already is one of my favorites.
The autograph circle at the concourse level was as crazy and intense as we’ve had all tour long. Cuttino Mobley popped into this inner core with his mom. How cool is it to be able to spend time with your family at an NBA game of such significance?!
My son Nate was with me tonight and we cheered as Richard Jefferson played one of his finest games as a pro. He was everywhere and most importantly, Richard realized that, ultimately, basketball is a game of balance and quickness. He was the first to the ball all night long. The Nets are making a big-time statement during this championship run... GROWIN’ UP, OOH-OOH GROWIN’ UP
But who would have ever thought that after all of these years, after all of the dead moments and after all of the silent nights, that as the Nets move ever forward and onward with their march through Charlotte, that 20,000 fans would be chanting: LU-CIOUS HARR-IS, LU-CIOUS HARR-IS … I now know that there are no limits to the "Love It Live!" Tour...