As it turned out, Kansas City snapped a five-game losing streak by beating San Diego last Thursday. The Kings had led the Midwest Division from Nov. 17 until just the night before, when they lost to Golden State while Denver was beating Detroit. That loss had made their record 3-11 since early March, when Forward Scott Wedman drove his Porsche off an icy road. The car collided with a telephone pole and split in two. Lucky to be alive, Wedman was out of the hospital four days later. That is why his teammates now call him the Incredible Hulk. At San Diego, in Wedman's fourth game back, he scored 19 and the Kings slid ahead early and beat the Clippers 116-111.
The Trail Blazers arrived in Washington Friday to find a newspaper account of a radio interview in which Walton said, "I haven't ruled out playing this year." With Portland? In the playoffs? "Yep," he said. "That would be really exciting." But Walton has cried wolf too many times for anyone associated with the Blazers entourage to take him seriously. "That would be a pretty good addition, having a backup center like him," said Assistant Coach Jack McKinney.
Walton's last exotic adventure took him to Davao City, Mindanao, in the Philippines. There he climbed 200 feet up a luan tree to weigh a baby monkey-eating eagle for an ABC-TV American Sportsman show. He has been home in Balboa Island, Calif. the last three weeks, running and bicycling, but according to his adviser, Portland attorney John Bassett, "His legs are two different sizes." Walton has not touched a basketball since last April 21—the day he broke a bone in his left foot in a playoff game against Seattle—except for two days of clinics in the Philippines.
"Bill would like to participate in the playoffs," says Bassett, "but deep down he recognizes that that's not going to happen. He'd love to ride in on a white horse, but he'd hate to have the ball bounce off his forehead in the first minute." Nonetheless, smart money says that Walton will re-sign and return to the Blazers next season.
Friday night the Blazers gave the defending champion Bullets their worst home-court thrashing in four seasons, 132-104. Dick Motta started 6'10" Mitch Kupchak in place of 6'6" Bob Dandridge at small forward, hoping to cope with the big Blazers. But after 18 minutes against Thompson, Kupchak was one for five with one rebound. For the rest of the game Thompson held Dandridge to three for 10 shooting, while he hit 11 of 17 for 22 points, collected nine rebounds and had six assists. Twice he blocked Dandridge's shots, and twice he moved over to knock down shots by Elvin Hayes. Owens scored 30, and again the Blazers' offense worked efficiently—30 of 60 field goals were layups, and they shot 61% from the field.
The other big game that night was San Diego (then two games behind) at Denver (half a game ahead). Whom would the Blazers pull for? "I don't think it matters anymore," said Gross.
It didn't. San Diego lost again, 130-121, its fourth straight. And while the Nuggets won, they lost as well when George McGinnis went down in the third quarter with a torn ligament in his left ankle. He is expected to be out six weeks, which means that Denver, which has little bench strength, faced a brutal season-ending five-game road trip without one of its big stars.
On Sunday the Blazers were in Milwaukee, and for 47 minutes it seemed that the reality of road life had finally caught up with them. Gross was out because of his injured knee, joining Hollins on the sidelines, and even though Milwaukee was without Marques Johnson, the Blazers were pushed around most of the game. But with a foul and a turnover in the last 11 seconds, Milwaukee handed Portland the game 109-107, thus giving Portland its first unbeaten road trip of the season.
Quite suddenly the Trail Blazers seemed to shake two conference rivals, one of them cruelly ravaged by injury, just as the Blazers themselves had been for most of the past season and a half. "It's too bad," said Lucas. "I like the competition."