NBA Splinters | August 19th, 1979

1031_largeBy Paul Gotham

A Kermit And A Kunnert Are Better Than A Pain In The Foot

Looking to recapture the magic that led them to 1977 NBA title, Portland general manager, Stu Inman, sent the disgruntled Bill Walton south to San Diego. In return, the Clippers shuffled the embattled Kermit Washington along with Kevin Kunnert.

Since leading Blazermania over the Philadelphia 76ers in the ’77 series, Walton has been more a lightning rod of controversy than MVP center. Portland seemed poised for back-to-back titles when Walton went down with an injury. ¬†Portland streaked to a 50-10 record to open the ’77-’78 season. Then, Walton’s problems began. ¬†Ultimately, Walton broke his foot in the conference semi-finals and Dr. Jack Ramsay’s squad lost to the Seattle Super Sonics.

Walton spent last season on the shelf. While on the sidelines, Big Red asserted malpractice by the Portland medical staff. The riff caused Walton to request the trade.

Washington seemed to find a home if not some solace in San Diego after the Punch. The American University product scored 11.3 ppg and grabbed 9.8 boards last season for the Clippers who finished fifth in the Pacific with a record of 43-39.

Kunnert scored 6.5 and grabbed 7 rebounds per game. The two will have big shoes to fill if the Blazers are to return to the championship.

Injuries have riddled the Blazers since that title season. All-Star point guard, Lionel Hollins, played 64 games last season – many of those at less than 100%. Maurice Lucas played 69 contests. Again, many of those the All-Star played injured. Beyond those maladies, team glue, Bobby Gross, suited up for just 53 matches during the ’78-’79 campaign.

Adding insult to …well…injury, Mychal Thompson might be lost for the season due to a broken leg suffered during last season’s playoffs.

Dayton alum Jimmy Paxson should get plenty of time on the court during his rookie season.

Suns Rising In The West?

Losing to Seattle in last season’s conference final 4-3 was one thing. The way Phoenix lost was another thing. Leading the series 3-2 with home-court advantage, the Suns looked ready to vault into the finals. Then came the 106-105 loss in game 6. Seattle took the epic series with the 114-110 win in game 7.

Walter Davis, Paul Westphal, and Alvan Adams all return to lead John MacLeod’s Suns. Could an entire season of Truck Robinson be just the ingredient Phoenix needs in the paint?

The Utah Jazz?

Yeah, it may take a while to get used to this one. Do you think the Mormons will take to playing Louie Armstrong and The Preservation Hall Band during time outs and half time? How will ‘Pistol’ Pete survive away from the bayou?

The Breaks Of The Game is worth the read.

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