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#TWiCH: Bill Walton, Derek Smith, and Keith Closs

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This Week in Clippers History, Bill Walton has a big game, some sad news about former Clipper Derek Smith, and the signing of Keith Closs.

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Hello everyone! It's time for another trip down memory lane to look back at some of the Clippers stories that were in the news This Week in Clippers History, with a few changes.

First off, TWiCH can now be read weekly on it's new day and time, Friday's at noon, which makes it perfect for your lunchtime enjoyment. Secondly, each week, instead of reliving 5 stories from the past, you will get 3 stories. Why the change? Well, some weeks, there just aren't that many great stories worth revisiting. So instead of giving you some uninteresting news, such as this weeks "Clippers sign Josh Powell" (my apologies to Josh Powell and all his supporters out there), we can focus on more interesting stories, such as the ones we will cover this week. Also, since we are entering year 2 of TWiCH, I don't want to bore you with retreads of stories that were covered last year. Every so often, there might be a duplicate, or something that relates to stories covered before on TWiCH, but the goal is to keep bringing you fresh information from the Clippers history book.

With that said, enjoy these 3 articles from This Week in Clippers History:


Bill Walton Scores 27 in Summer Pro League Game

The Bill Walton story with the Clippers was one of what could have been. It should have been a great one. The NBA star who signs with his hometown team to lead them to greatness. Walton was good enough to make it happen, except his body had other thoughts. After 5 seasons in Portland with the Trail Blazers, including 2 all-star games and 1 NBA championship, Bill Walton signed with the San Diego Clippers. It was a dream signing, as the Clippers would get a local legend who went to Helix High School in La Mesa, just 9 miles east of San Diego, and went on to star for UCLA, just up I-5.

The problem was that he could not stay healthy. He missed his entire final season in Portland with a foot injury, but the Clippers didn't feel like it would be a permanent issue. He even missed the beginning of the 1979-80 season, his first with the Clippers, still recovering. When he did finally suit up, he struggled, and only played 14 games before calling it a season. His points and rebounds per game (13.9 ppg, 9 rpg) were much lower than what he had averaged in his 4 seasons in Portland prior to his foot injury (17.1 ppg, 13.5 rpg).

The Big Red Head would go on to miss the entirety of 2 additional seasons, from 1980-82, while recovering from the foot injury. The Clippers would struggle, with a combined 2 season record of 53 wins, 111 losses.

In the summer of 1982, with hopes of returning to the NBA and the Clippers, Walton participated in the Summer Pro League in Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. In his first game, he would play 32 minutes, while scoring 27 points. Bill Walton was back! But unfortunately, it wouldn't last too long. Walton would go on to play 33 games in the 1982-83 season, before his injuries took control again. He would play 2 more seasons with the club, including the inaugural season in Los Angeles. The Clippers would cut their losses and traded the player they hoped would save basketball in San Diego to the Boston Celtics for Cedric Maxwell and a 1986 1st round draft pick, which would be traded to Portland and become Arvydas Sabonis.


Former Clipper Derek Smith Dies of Heart Attack at 34 Years Old

Derek Smith joined the Clippers as a free agent in 1983, after spending his rookie season mostly on the bench with the Golden State Warriors. His first season with the Clippers, in San Diego, was nothing to get too excited about, averaging 9.8 ppg. It was his second and third seasons with the team that were exciting. In the 1984-85 season in Los Angeles, Smith broke out for 22 ppg on 54% shooting. He would continue the strong play to start the next season, before his season was cut short by a knee injury.

In August of 1986, Smith would be traded to the Sacramento Kings along with Junior Bridgeman and Franklin Edwards, for Larry Drew, Mike Woodson, and 2 first round draft picks. He would play in 5 more seasons before retiring from the NBA in 1991.

Just 5 years after retiring, at an all too young age of 34, Derek Smith passed away from a heart attack while on a cruise with his family. He had spent the previous season as an assistant coach with the Washington Bullets. If not for injuries, Smith could have had a solid career, and maybe could have stayed with the Clippers a little longer. But, as with many Clippers players in the clubs history, injuries had a big impact.


Clippers Sign Keith Closs, 5 Years $8.5 Million

Love him or hate him, Keith Closs was a Clipper. At one point, he was a promising player, that probably could have had a great career. Unfortunately, he had a problem with alcohol. There are stories of him drinking before, during and after games. The 7-3 center from Central Connecticut State University, would only play 3 seasons in the NBA, all with the Clippers. He played 130 games, starting 7, and averaged 3.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game.

Unfortunately, instead of being remembered as a decent NBA player, he is more famous for the viral video that shows him getting beat up outside a club in Los Angeles by members of Death Row Records.

Well there you have it folks, the stories of This Week in Clippers History. Hope you enjoyed them. Feel free to share your memories of Bill Walton, Derek Smith, and Keith Closs in the comments below. Remember to check back next Friday at noon for more Clippers history.