“When you talk about the Blazers,” insists Portland GM Kevin Pritchard, ” you can’t help but talk about Bill Walton and his legacy.” And while that legacy includes the Blazers’ sole NBA Championship, there’s also the matter of the injury-prone <strike>SLA sympathizer</strike> Deadhead’s somewhat contentious exit from Portland, just one of the topics addressed by Walton yesterday, making his first public appearance since undergoing spinal fusion surgery.  From The Columbian’s Blazer Banter :

Walton directly apologized to Blazer fans, stating he regretted not being a better person and a better player while with the team. He expressed remorse for the multiple injuries that slowed and eventually ended his once-remarkable career. And he said he was ashamed of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Portland ” Walton sat out the 1978-79 season in protest after the Blazers failed to grant a trade request. He joined the San Diego ” now Los Angeles ” Clippers in 1979.

“I just wish that you could do a lot of things over, but you can’t,” said Walton, a two-time NBA champion who resides in San Diego, Calif. “And so I’m here to apologize. I’m here to try to make amends. I’m here to try to start over. I’m here to try to make it better.”

Walton’s post-playing career has been wrecked by an unending series of medical operations. The former UCLA standout and No. 1 pick in the 1974 NBA Draft said he has undergone 36 orthopedic surgeries.

Walton recalled a recent low point by stating, “I was lying on the floor, a pitiful, helpless ball of flesh, that could not walk, think, talk, sit, stand, sleep, do anything.”

He described “unrelenting, excruciating and debilitating” nerve pain that ranged from his chest to his knees.

And Walton ran through an injury report that sounded like a personal nightmare: He has two surgically-fused ankles; knees, hands and wrists that do not work; at least 11 metal bolts in his body; and is forced to wear a protective brace.

Walton stated that he went from standing on the edge and thinking his life was over, to seeing light finally appear on the horizon and having “dreams of a better tomorrow.”