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Bill Walton To Call Celtics Game Against Blazers

When the Celtics begin their West Coast road trip Thursday night in Portland, there will be a familiar face (and voice) court side: Bill Walton.

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The Big Red Head is replacing Tommy Heinsohn as color commentator for tonight's game with the Blazers and Friday's game at Phoenix, both airing on Comcast SportsNet (Mike Gorman is still handling the play-by-play). Walton left broadcasting after 19 years in 2009 "to address back pains that were so intense that, he said, he'd wake up some days feeling 'useless.'" But some radical back surgery has allowed Walton back on the mic (he regularly calls games for the Sacramento Kings).

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Walton says that before the 8½-hour surgery 14 months ago, he had become useless. He couldn't walk and had trouble sleeping. But he had encouragement from his friends and especially from his wife, Lori.

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"There were four incisions, four 4-inch bolts, two titanium rods and a cage that holds it all together and spacers in between the vertebrae," he said. "It was the hardest thing I've had to go through, much more difficult than all my other surgeries combined. It's come so far, the evolution of back surgery, and doctors constantly are improving.

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Walton, a member of both the Basketball Hall of Fame and NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, spent four seasons with Portland and two years with Boston.