Where's Walton? ... Day 28: Survival of the Fittest
FRIDAY, MAY 17: SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA
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|
SUNSHINE DAYDREAM …WALKING IN THE TALL TREES … GOING WHERE THE WIND GOES … BLOOMING LIKE A RED ROSE … BREATHING MORE FREELY
…In the free nanosecond in-between games, I had some unfinished business to attend to. I dashed to Charlotte to say THANK YOU to the FANS for giving us THEIR LIVES for the last 14 YEARS … USED TO BE THE HEART OF TOWN … DON’T TELL ME THIS TOWN AIN’T GOT NO HEART … YOU JUST GOT TO POKE AROUND
…While in Charlotte, on this wonderful summer day, I ran into the devil himself – Tommy Burleson – the man who ruined my life on March 23, 1974. In a perfect example of how the LOVE IT LIVE TOUR has not only CHANGED MY LIFE but the WORLD around ME, Tom Burleson, I discovered, is no longer an evil VILLAIN. He actually has some redeeming qualities as a human being. In fact, with all due respect to Yao Ming, Master P and Steve Jackson, TOMMY BURLESON is now my NEW BEST FRIEND.
WALKING IN THE SUNSHINE … SUNSHINE DAYDREAM…
Captain Jack is struggling to maintain ORDER on the BUS ……ARROWS OF NEON AND FLASHING MARQUEES OUT ON MAIN STREET … CHICAGO, NEW YORK, DETROIT AND ITS ALL THE SAME STREET …YOUR TYPICAL CITY INVOLVED IN A TYPICAL DAYDREAM …HANG IT UP AND SEE WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS …As we near the end of the Love It Live Tour, the natives are getting restless on yet another cross-country trek to Sacramento. People are starting to look over their shoulders. Escape routes are already being planned, all the while the band playing ever louder, ever faster. The games mimicking the crescendo toward the grand finale. But Captain Jack is as quick a learner as I’VE EVER come across. The Captain learned from Coach Wooden that the way to instill discipline is to CONVINCE EVERYONE of the SPECIAL privilege and position they’ve EARNED in life – TO BE ON THE BUS! While the Captain and the Coach appreciate individuality and certainly respect the willingness to stand up for what people believe in, our fearless leader, Jack, like Coach Wooden, has become the BOSS. He ENDS every argument the same way that Coach did:
C-Webb will need bring his best if the Kings hope to beat the Lakers.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
‘THANKS FOR COMING. WE’RE GOING TO MISS YOU.’
Captain Jack, like the Coach, has also realized that being off the Bus, is exactly like being relegated to the bench. It’s his greatest asset and weapon
While catching up on news from around the league, members of this Merry Band of Prankster were ecstatic to learn of Atlanta’s hiring of Billy Knight, a fine fellow who got a raw deal in Memphis. In the true spirit and compassion of this Love Farm, Billy Knight has a PERMANENT place on our BUS …
ARE YOU READY? I HOPE YOU’RE READY?
The final four, we’re HERE. The natural selection process has run its course. ONLY THE FITTEST HAVE SURVIVED … This time of year brings me back to a very special book and person in my life. Irving Stone’s, “THE ORIGIN,” the story of CHARLES DARWIN is one of the most powerful dramas I’ve ever lived through. I used to spend a lot of time with Irving at UCLA, watching great basketball in the ’80s. I would listen to him regale about the wonders of the human spirit. Irving’s ability to capture history, to turn the tales and to bring heroic stories of courage, humanity, heroism and sacrifice to life, is UNSURPASSED. So many great books by Irving Stone – “Men to Match My Mountains,” “The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo,” “Love Is Eternal,” -- but “The Origin” ordered my brainwaves forever … CHARLES DARWIN’S love of nature, his gardens, his home in England, the Journey of the Beagle and his short stop in the Galapagos, which truly changed the world and how we think about it. I made my own pilgrimage to the Galapagos upon receiving inspiration from Irving. WHAT A TRIP.
So many of life’s lessons, reinforced and relearned on that journey of discovery, exploration and reflection by five young men CHASING down OUR own DREAMS. The lava tubes, Tortuga Bay, the iguanas -- marine and desert, the giant tortoises, the finches, the blue-footed boobies, the cormorants, the giant sea turtles, the seals that wanted to play tag … an endless list of flora, fauna and remarkable adventures. All displaying a perfect example of LIFE IN HARMONY -- animals that wanted to be friends … crystal clear waters, lagoons, volcanoes, desert forests. As interesting, challenging, stimulating and INVIGORATING a place as there is on earth. I WISH I COULD GO BACK but the Love It Live Tour is as far out there as any trip to the Galapagos. As always, it’s the PEOPLE that make any trip …SWEET BLOSSOM, COME ON UNDER THE WILLOW … WE CAN HAVE HIGH TIMES IF YOU’LL ABIDE … WE CAN DISCOVER THE WONDERS OF NATURE … WADING IN THE RUSHES DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE …
Gus Angermeyer, who was our guide at the time (and someone we were led to believe was in his late ’60s) led the journey. Gus’ family fled from Nazi Germany in the early ’30s, seeking PEACE and FREEDOM. They ultimately settled in the Galapagos. When we arrived in the ’80s, the Angermeyers were the John Woodens, Red Auerbachs and Jack Ramsays of these enchanted isles. So many incredible lessons from Gus. We were so young, so naïve. He out hiked us all, BARE FOOT over the lava, while carrying all of our packs at once because WE COULDN”T KEEP the pace. And always, with his greatest of admonitions, DON’T STAND TOO CLOSE to the edge.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE JUDGMENT? ARE YOU READY FOR THAT TERRIBLE SWIFT SWORD? ARE YOU READY FOR THE ARMAGEDDON?
The EDGE is where we are right now – SACRAMENTO and the LAKERS. If anyone is going to beat Los Angeles, this is PROBABLY a good place to start. Earlier on the LOVE IT LIVE TOUR, we delved into some of John Wooden’s tools for overcoming adversity. One that applies here is, CONFIDENCE. The belief that you are going to win before the game starts. The ability to convince your opponent that he has NO CHANCE.
CONFIDENCE is not FALSE BRAVADO or braggadocio. CONFIDENCE is the END RESULT of a lifetime of preparation and HARD WORK, getting ready for the TASK at hand. As a stutterer, BROADCASTING and PUBLIC SPEAKING is so VERY, VERY difficult for me. Early in my television career, I had a chance to call a really big game with Hall of Famer, Dick Enberg …DICK … so POISED, so FLAWLESS, so PERFECT, so EFFORTLESS, belying the fact that he has worked a lifetime himself developing these skills. At this game, as our producer is counting it down …TEN … NINE … EIGHT …Dick is so relaxed, so calm, knowing exactly how it’s going to play out. Meanwhile, I am SWEATING BULLETS, I am NERVOUS as can be, OVER the EDGE and have completely LOST CONTROL, knowing that I am going to be stuttering, stammering, stumbling all over myself … SEVEN … SIX … FIVE … I’m quickly writing everything down and hurriedly trying to memorize passages as the producer counts down, FOUR …THREE … Dick looks over and sees that I AM IN A HEEP OF TROUBLE, a state of high anxiety … TWO …ONE … and right as we’re going on the air Dick calmly leans over, pats me on the leg and says, “ Bill, don’t worry about a thing. That red light is going to come on and there’s GOING TO BE 35 MILLION PEOPLE hanging on every word YOU say.’
Thanks a lot
Bill says Rick Adelman's ultimate task will be to breathe life into his Kings team.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
The coach -- like Dick Enberg, Gus Angermeyer -- has the job of BREATHING LIFE into a team. That is RICK ADELMAN’s ultimate task. The masters of this skill are PHIL JACKSON, JOHN WOODEN, JACK RAMSAY and RED AUERBACH. Coach Wooden NEVER talked about the opposition. He always focused on what we had to do. There was only one time that he ever mentioned a single player on another team -- David Thompson -- on March 19, 1974, four days before the fateful encounter with my new best friend, Tommy Burleson. We lost that game.
CONFIDENCE, Jack Ramsay Exudes It --- When we were down 0-2 to Philadelphia in the ’77 NBA Finals, Dr. J was trash talking, saying that the series was over and that they knew our plays better than we did. Jack Ramsay said nonsense. He told us, ‘Guys, forget what they’re talking about. We’re not changing a thing. We’re not changing strategy. We’re not changing plays. We’re not going to make it more complicated. We’re going to revert to our core. We’re coming back to our fundamental base level because our game is good enough as it is. Jack Ramsay breathed life and fire into what became the youngest team in NBA history to win the league championship.
CONFIDENCE, K.C. Jones Bleeds It … It was halftime and we were down by 25 to the Atlanta Hawks and the likes of Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers, Reggie Theus, Tree Rollins and Kevin Willis. They were trash talking to no end. The crowd in the Omni was on its feet roaring, laughing at the expected annihilation of the Celtics. In the locker room at the half, our coach, K.C. Jones, DIDN’T say a word. He walked in, sat down and had a beer. Looked at his watch. Had another beer. Didn’t say a word. Looked at his watch --- had a third. Looked at his watch and finally said, ‘IT’S TIME TO GO.’
At the beginning of the third quarter, Larry Bird took the ball to put it in play as he always did. Upon receiving the ball from the ref, he said, ‘We’re not going to quit. And YOU BETTER NOT EITHER.’ Larry proceeded to hit 11 STRAIGHT shots, including seven threes to open the third quarter. Trailing by 25 at the half, we won in overtime and we DID NOT need a plane to get home.
CONFIDENCE is something that champions HAVE to have. The calm before the storm. When Jerry Garcia would stand up there in the face of fierce OPPRESSION and violence from the powers that be, he would stand tall, waving the flag, singing LOUD and STRONG that it takes a lot to WIN but even MORE TO LOSE.
SUNSHINE DAYDREAM …WALKING IN THE SUNSHINE
You’re NEVER GOING TO BEAT THE LAKERS if you’re not going to play great offense. You HAVE TO make Shaq guard the ball. You have to make him MOVE. You have to make him RUN. You have to involve him in screen and rolls, give and go’s, back-door cuts, screens away from the ball. YOU NEVER LET HIM REST and you get your opportunities in TRANSITION. You get your opportunities off penetration and dish and when you get that ball yourself, YOU GO RIGHT AT THE BIG GUY. For the Kings to win, they’re NOT going to be able to play a half-court game. They’re not going to be able to get bogged down in the style that Utah forced them to play. This is going to be about scoring 100 points. By the way, when was the last time the Lakers scored 100 points?
HAVE YOU GOT SOME UNFINISHED BUSINESS? IS THERE SOMETHING HOLDING YOU BACK? ARE YOU THINKING FOR YOURSELF? OR ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE PACK?
Yes, L.A. has a great defense, but a great offense always comes out on top. And that’s what Sacramento has. They have enough but DO THEY BELIEVE IT? DO THEY HAVE THE CONFIDENCE? Will RICK ADELMAN overcoach? Or, will he give the team the faith in itself to achieve the most unlikely of upsets? … YOU HAVE MANY CONTACTS AMONG THE LUMBERJACKS TO GET YOU FACTS WHEN SOMEONE ATTACKS YOUR IMAGINATION BUT NOBODY HAS ANY RESPECT, ANYWAY THEY EXPECT YOU TO ALL GIVE A CHECK TO TAX-DEDUCTIBLE CHARITY ORGANIZATIONS …
The FANS have their job to do, too … COME ON OUT SINGING AND I’LL WALK YOU IN THE SUNSHINE … COME ON HONEY, COME ALONG WITH ME …There was nothing like the FANS in PORTLAND … SUGAR MAGNOLIA … BLOSSOMS BLOOMING … HEADS ALL EMPTY AND I DON’T CARE … SAW MY BABY DOWN BY THE RIVER … KNEW SHE’D HAVE TO COME UP SOON FOR AIR …On big game days when Abdul-Jabbar, Dr. J, Moses or Artis were in town, the Blazermaniacs in Northwest Portland would leave food, fruit, muffins, flowers and music on my front porch. Bootlegs tapes of Jerry, Bob and Neil. I would take everything inside. I would inhale the food, roll in the flowers and start that music playing LONG, LOUD and FAST. The support from the Kings fans is going to be critical here. They’re going to have to give their heroes the love that will enable them to achieve heights never previously dreamed of.
Sacramento will have to play better than they’ve ever played before because that’s what it’s going to take. SACRAMENTO WILL NOT WIN THIS SERIES ON LUCK. They will not be able to sneak into the NBA Finals. The Kings mentality must be, ‘We’re going to beat these guys bad. ‘We’re going to wear 'em down and WE’RE NOT looking for close victories. We are going to rev the engine like a teenager trying to impress the girls.’ If Sacramento is going to win, it’s because they’re the better team. And if they win, they will CHANGE the course of HISTORY. The same way that Wilt Chamberlain’s loss in the ’57 NCAA championship game changed history; the same way that Kareem’s loss in the Astrodome in ’68 changed history; the same way that Ewing’s loss to Villanova in the NCAA championship in ’85 CHANGED history. To beat the biggest and the baddest, requires historical level accomplishments. And to change history, you HAVE TO have a special player. That player HAS TO BE …. CHRIS WEBBER.
SUNSHINE DAYDREAM …WALKING IN THE SUNSHINE
QUOTE OF THE DAY
|“This is not about the first five minutes of Game 1. We’re talking about sustained excellence. We’re talking RELENTLESS attack. We’re talking about being more COMMITTED, so committed that the other team realizes that they want no part of this.”
It’s too bad about Peja. Don’t look for him in the first two games. BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT GOES, the BREAKS of the GAME. Hedo Turkoglu is more than good enough. Hedo Turkoglu might be a better player that Peja …SHE COMES SKIMMING THROUGH RAYS OF VIOLET … SHE CAN WADE IN A DROP OF DEW … SHE DON’T COME AND I DON’T FOLLOW …WAITS BACKSTAGE WHILE I SING TO YOU …
The nicest thing anyone ever said about me as a basketball player was that I helped my teammates play better ball. No one was ever a greater teammate in my life than Maurice Lucas. The man who made me the best basketball player that I ever was. Luke had a unique way of inspiring us before the games. He would always come to me before the toughest matchups and ask: ‘Bill, what do we have to do to win this game?’ I would angrily respond, ‘Luke, we’ve been going over strategy, plays, film, everything for the last three days. What do you mean what do we have to do? Haven’t you been listening?!’
Luke’s response was always the same. He stated firmly, ‘Bill, I don’t care about films, strategy or plays. I CARE ABOUT PEOPLE. Which guys on our team do you think have to play well for us to win this game.’ I listed a couple of guards who had to do a little more than inbound the ball and play some defense. He proclaimed, ‘I’ll take care of this.’
He would then go and sit down in their locker, right next to these guys and put his big MASSIVE arm around their shivering shoulders. Luke would lean in nice and tight and said, ‘Hey, Bill just told me that he thinks you need to play well for us to win this game.’ And the guard would whimper back, ‘I’ll do my best, Luke.’ Luke would then get even closer, SNEERING, ‘THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If you don’t play the game of your life, I’m going to kill you.’ The guy went out and played as if his life depended on it.
WELL THE SWORD-SWALLOWER HE COMES UP TO YOU AND THEN HE KNEELS … HE CROSSES HIMSELF AND THEN HE CLICKS HIS HIGH HEELS AND WITHOUT FURTHER NOTICE HE ASKS YOU HOW IT FEELS …
For Sacramento, to win this series, MAURICE LUCAS NEEDS TO SIT IN CHRIS WEBBER’S locker and put that BIG ARM over his shoulder. ‘Hey, Chris …’
OH GOD SAID TO ABRAHAM, “KILL ME A SON” … ABE SAYS, “MAN, YOU MUST BE PUTTIN’ ME ON … GOD SAY, “NO.” ABE SAY, “WHAT?” …GOD SAY, “YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT ABE, BUT THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME COMIN’ THROUGH YOU BETTER RUN”
As I close my eyes tonight in Sacramento, awaiting the opportunity of a lifetime, some unresolved questions keep rolling through the spinning slot machine that is my mind.
Will Mike Bibby continue his outstanding play in the presence of an unbelievably skilled and disciplined defender, Derek Fisher? OH MY GOD AM I HERE ALL ALONE?
Will Hedo Turkoglu be able to contain his emotions and not be over ’amped to the point where he’s out of control?
Will Rick Adelman have the poise and composure to convince his squad that their game is good enough?
Will Vlade ever play well against Shaq? History is against him.
Will Scot Pollard realize that he’s truly a skilled player? Or, will he get caught up in the morass?
Is Jason Williams still on the planet?
Is Chris Webber listening to Maurice? SOMETHING IS HAPPENING HERE BUT YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS DO YOU, MR. JONES?
The Lakers HAVE ALREADY answered all of their questions.