CHALLENGING THE BILL FOR BILL
The NBA Players Association said last week that it was taking Commissioner Larry O'Brien's compensation award in the Bill Walton case to U.S. District Court. O'Brien had ordered the San Diego Clippers to give the Portland Trail Blazers Kermit Washington, Kevin Kunnert, two first-round draft choices and $350,000 for signing Walton. The association contends that this was excessive, the same argument it used to challenge O'Brien's compensation ruling in the case of Marvin Webster, who signed last year with the New York Knicks. That award was overturned in court in September, and the NBA has appealed.
The association's position in the Walton case may have been strengthened by the latest news on the injury that has kept the big center sidelined since preseason. Eight orthopedists examined Walton's left foot and diagnosed the problem, variously, as a sprained ligament, inflamed tendon and congenital bone defect. Last week one of them, Dr. Tony Daly, said it turns out that Walton has a stress fracture of the navicular bone. This is the same bone Walton fractured in Portland, an injury that kept him out of action all last season and raised questions about the medical care that the Trail Blazers were providing him. If the quality of that care can now be linked to the injury that is depriving San Diego of Walton's services, it might be all the more difficult to justify a big compensation award to the Portland team.
Meanwhile, Walton's foot is in a lightweight fiber-glass cast, and he is expected to be out of the lineup for at least six more weeks. Answering charges that he has a low pain threshold, Walton said last week, "I enjoy living in a country where people have the freedom to criticize." But he also noted that he once played half a season with a broken wrist and added, "I want to play basketball again. The best positive contribution I can make to society at this stage of my life is as a basketball player."
Eastern Illinois University has a compactly built (5'6", 190 pounds) running back named Chris (Poke) Cobb who rushed for 161 yards in 27 carries Saturday in a 24-0 win over Illinois State, raising his career yardage total to 4,986, an NCAA Division II record. With one game left, Cobb, a senior, could surpass Archie Griffin's total of 5,177 yards and assume fourth place on the all-division list behind Tony Dorsett's 6,082. Cobb obviously moves well enough, but that wasn't always the case, as his nickname suggests. "When he was small," says a brother, Ernest, "he was kind of slow, crawling around the ground and all, and he was called Porky. When he grew up a little bit, we changed that to Poke."