If you have some time, Jonathan Abrams’ piece on Arvydas Sabonis at Grantland is well worth a read. Pistons fans, I think, will particularly enjoy this bit involving Bill Walton and Rasheed Wallace:
Ultimately, the Portland teams wasted their potential. In 2000, Portland took the Lakers to a seventh game of the Western Conference finals. The Trail Blazers led by 15 in the final 10 minutes and lost, 89-84. Sabonis fouled out with 2:44 left in the game after a couple of questionable calls. “It’s one of the worst games that happened in my life,” Sabonis said. “You have three or four. This is one of them. Last game and winning 15 points in 10 minutes and losing. It’s difficult. Difficult to forget.”
In the following season, Wallace threw the towel at Sabonis during a timeout of a game against the Lakers. Sabonis had accidentally smacked Wallace’s face earlier when he collided in the post with O’Neal…
Walton, who was broadcasting the game nationally, still feels remorse over the incident. “It was one of the lowest moments of my life,” he said. “If I was any kind of a man, I would have got up from that broadcast table and walked across the court and punched Rasheed Wallace in the nose. But I let Sabonis and the game of basketball and the human race down that day.”
The towel-throwing incident is actually a good indicator of how much Wallace matured by the time he was with the Pistons. Oh sure, he was still out of control emotionally on the court, but he seemed to become a much better teammate by the time he was with Detroit. It certainly helped that he wasn’t counted on to be Detroit’s go-to player too. That pressure clearly got to him in Portland.
But I would still have loved to watch Walton lumber out of his broadcast chair to try and punch Wallace in the face.