LOS ANGELES (AP) - Bill Walton is alive and well after having to spend several weeks on his floor at home because of excruciating back and hip problems.
``Fifteen weeks and one day (ago) today,'' the 55-year-old Hall of Famer said with a smile at Staples Center before Game 3 of the NBA finals. ``This is my first event. A week ago, I did a social outing. A few days ago, I went to a restaurant. Every day, I do more. I am doing better all the time. I'm going to make it.''
Luke Walton, a backup forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, said his father told him a couple days ago he'd attend Tuesday night's game against the Boston Celtics, for whom he played his last two NBA seasons before retiring in 1987.
``I'm just glad to hear he's doing better,'' the younger Walton said. ``I haven't seen him, he's out and about in (Staples Center) somewhere. It would be nice to see him.''
Walton said he hasn't seen his father since the All-Star break in February.
The elder Walton said he had bulging disks with pinched nerves, damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons in his lower back and hip, and a spinal stenosis.
``I was on the floor for six weeks, unrelenting nerve pain, from my mid-thigh to my chest - just to blink,'' he said. ``I started my physical therapy every morning at 5:30 and go until 8 o'clock at night. I'd eat my meals and watch the games from the floor.''
Walton's physical problems kept him from his work as an NBA commentator at ESPN.
``I can't thank ESPN enough,'' he said. ``ESPN has been the greatest thing that's ever happened to me in my professional career. Their support has been beyond description - better than perfect.''
Before the finals began, Walton picked the Celtics to win the finals in seven games. He said he hopes he's wrong.
``I want Luke to win,'' he said. ``I know how special it is to win the championship. I know how devastating it is to lose the championship.''
Walton played his last games in the NBA finals against the Lakers, who beat the Celtics in six games. The teams haven't met in the postseason since that time.
The Celtics took a 2-0 lead into Tuesday night's game. Only three teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the finals - Boston against the Lakers in 1969; Portland against Philadelphia in 1977, and Miami against Dallas two years ago. Walton was one of the stars on that Portland team 31 years ago.
FISHER WINS MAGIC: Lakers guard Derek Fisher won the Magic Johnson Award, given by the Pro Basketball Writers Association to a player in reward of his performance on the court combined with his cooperation with the media.
Fisher beat out Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Houston's Yao Ming, San Antonio's Manu Ginobili and Portland's Brandon Roy in postseason balloting by PBWA members.
Fisher rejoined the Lakers this season after asking the Utah Jazz to let him out of his contract so his family could be in a larger city where his daughter, Tatum, could receive a specific treatment for a cancerous tumor in her eye
``Derek is a man of class and dignity, as he frequently demonstrated during his daughter's battle with cancer. He sets a standard for cooperation and accountability with the media,'' PBWA president Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer said in a statement.
The PBWA also voted Jim LaBumbard and his Toronto Raptors staff the NBA media relations staff of the year. They beat out the staffs from Golden State, Houston and Washington.
NO GO FOR BARROS: The jumper is probably still there, but at 41, the legs aren't. So former Celtics guard Dana Barros won't join the Cape Verde team in its long-shot bid for an Olympic basketball spot.
Barros, who works for the Celtics as a consultant in community relations and player development, was intrigued by the chance to play for the Cape Verdeans in a qualifying tournament next month that will award the three remaining spots in the Beijing field. But he felt he didn't have enough time to get in proper shape to compete against NBA players.
``It's something that I contemplated for a while, but just wasn't able to do it and at 41 I can't play for two weeks and try to be ready. I need to stretch for at least two to three weeks,'' Barros joked. ``It's something that I definitely contemplated but it just didn't work out this time.''
Barros' grandparents are from Cape Verde, islands off the coast of Africa colonized by the Portuguese before gaining independence in 1975. Barros got the idea of playing in the qualifier from his cousin, Tony Barros, who played for UMass-Boston and some teams in Europe.
``He kept trying to egg me on and got me a little interested,'' Dana Barros said. ``Got my fever, got my blood boiling, but I just didn't have time to get it done.''
Barros, the Celtics' career leader in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.7, has been learning more about his heritage and said he wants to organize some camps in Cape Verde. Ryan Gomes, a former Celtics player who was sent to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade, is also of Cape Verdean descent.
``There's not many of us Portuguese, Cape Verdean guys in the league, so you don't realize that your name does ring kind of bells over there,'' Barros said. ``So it'd be nice to go back and try to see that.''
But now wasn't the time. The Celtics' long playoff run took away valuable workout time.
``Just an honor to even associated with that Olympic stuff, you know what I mean?'' Barros said. ``It would take a little dusting off. A lot of dusting off.''
GAME FACE: Kevin Garnett is pretty fired up even for the most perfunctory preseason games, so the idea that he would pick things up in the playoffs is, well, scary.
Coach Doc Rivers said before Game 3 of the NBA finals on Tuesday, though, that Garnett only has one game face.
``He can't get any more intense. I don't think it's humanly possible,'' Rivers said. ``So you don't see much change with him.''
Garnett's arrival in Boston sparked the biggest one-season turnaround in NBA history, as the Celtics went from a 24-win team last year to an NBA-best 66-16 this year after the additions of Garnett and Ray Allen to mainstay Paul Pierce.
It's not just because Garnett has averaged 20 points and 8.5 rebounds a game over his career. His attitude has rubbed off on his teammates, veterans and young players alike.
``I see the same guy every day,'' Rivers said. ``You know, I just try to remind him that his want to can't get in the way of doing his job. Sometimes you want it so bad that it kind of blocks you from performing.''
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen contributed.

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