The names Steve Downing, Clarence Glover, Norm Cook and Darren Tillis leave a bad taste with Boston Celtics fans. They were former first-round draft choices and major-league busts.
Michael Smith, Boston's top selection in 1989, does not want his name added to such an infamous list. He heard more than a few rumblings in his first NBA season. Some said he wasn't a legitimate pro player. His passive, easy-going manner was interpreted as laziness. Worse, he began his first pro season in poor shape, a condition that nagged him throughout the year.Smith claims he's wiser. Exhibit A is attendance at the four-day rookie-free agent camp. The 6-10 forward says his reasoning in coming from his Newport Beach, Calif., home is simple.
"I have one goal, and that's that I'll be in the best shape I can when we open camp."
Towards that end, Smith has been living out a health-nut's fantasy. He's run for distance and sprinted along the ocean near his home. He's been a regular in beach volleyball. He's also been bicycling, swimming and lifting weights. Time on the basketball court has been kept to a minimum.
Six-day-a-week workouts have produced a slimmer, quicker, 220-pound Smith. Last summer, without knowing how to prepare for his first year of NBA bumping and grinding, Smith hit the weights and bulked up 15 pounds above his playing weight. He found that wasn't in his best interest.
"You have to be in shape and be able to run."
Lacking the quickness that helped him at BYU, Smith struggled. He also heard the catcalls from Celtics management and fans.
"They (management) obviously thought I did nothing all summer," Smith said in an unpleasant tone. "I was in ample shape but the quickness wasn't there because of the added weight.
"The thinking of the organization now is that we need more athletes. The whole trend of the league is smaller, quicker players at every position."
Smith averaged five points and 1.5 rebounds in his rookie year. He spent much of the first half of the season glued to the bench. Coach Jimmy Rodgers started Smith for seven games and he performed well. Still, he scored over 20 only twice and his two-for-28 three-point shooting was not what Celtics president Red Auerbach expected when he said on draft day that Smith "reminds me of Larry (Bird). I hope."
New Celtics coach Chris Ford is impressed by the slimmed-down Smith.
"He wanted to be here and I like that," Ford said. "We have no control over the veterans so it's great when they give up their summer. He knows what he might have done wrong last year and is taking good care of his body."
Smith is hoping for playing time to keep him off the list of failures.