Walton Trade to Celtics Highlights NBA Wheeling and Dealing

United Press International

The NBA’s biggest trade of the off-season began in a most unlikely way, with job-hunter Bill Walton calling the Boston Celtics and asking if they had any openings.

After three months of negotiations involving the Celtics, Walton and the Clippers--his former team--the 7-foot redhead was dealt for forward Cedric Maxwell, a first-round draft pick and cash. If Walton stays injury-free, he will join Robert Parish to give Boston a pivot combination capable of stopping Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Walton and Maxwell were regarded as damaged goods--Walton with foot problems, Maxwell with a knee injury. But a healthy Walton had the most to offer--the potential for another Celtics’ championship. And, after playing just 14 games over an injury-filled four-year period, the former UCLA star has increased his games each year from 33 to 55 to 67.


The acquisition of Walton excited Boston’s Larry Bird, who attempted to pattern his game after Walton’s.

“We just have to make sure we rest this guy, that we keep him from getting injured,” said the league’s MVP the past two years. “If we keep him healthy we can win a championship a lot easier than we could without him. He’s the best passer I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Maxwell, whose slow recovery from knee surgery was interpreted as laziness by Celtics officials, is believed healthy enough to be a major asset for the Clippers.

Los Angeles coach Don Chaney, a teammate of Maxwell’s for three years in Boston, has faith that the Clippers received a quality player whose eight years in the league will be valuable to his club.

“He’s taking a leadership role, that’s already obvious to me.” Chaney said.

The coach is not concerned that Maxwell, a defensive workhorse and MVP of the 1982 playoffs, was used infrequently by Boston the last half of the 1984-85 season.

“As long as Max is running, jumping and cutting, the rest will come,” the Clipper coach said. “Players don’t lose talent overnight.”

The Celtics, unhappy over losing the NBA crown to Los Angeles, was the league’s busiest team, making four trades. Along with the Walton-Maxwell deal, they traded guard Quinn Buckner to Indiana for a draft pick; acquired forward Sly Williams from Atlanta on a contingency deal; and picked up guard Jerry Sichting from Indiana for a pair of draft choices.

But the Lakers were not idle either, obtaining power forward Maurice Lucas from Phoenix for two draft selections.

The only other major trade was Washington’s exchange of Bruise Brother Rick Mahorn and 6-10 reserve Mike Gibson for Detroit forward Dan Roundfield. Each team sought to strengthen a weakness, the Pistons needing power on the boards and the Bullets looking for good shooting at a forward spot.

The negatives are that Roundfield, 32, was injured much of last year, missing 26 games and averaging only 10.9 points a game in his only year with Detroit. Mahorn, 6-10, 240 pounds, averaged just 6.3 points per game with 608 rebounds as coach Gene Shue was disappointed with Mahorn’s production.

Washington’s other deal was to send nine-year forward Greg Ballard to Golden State for two draft picks.

Chicago shipped center Steve Johnson to San Antonio for forward Gene Banks. Johnson, a 6-10 fifth-year pro, averaged 10.0 points a game last year. The 6-7 Banks, also entering his fifth year, averaged 9.5 points.

On draft day, Cleveland and Chicago swung a four-player deal. The Bulls sent first-round pick Keith Lee, a 6-10 forward from Memphis State and guard Ennis Whately to Cleveland for rebounding forward Charles Oakley, a 6-9 product of Virginia Union, plus the Bulls’ second-round draft choice.