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9.29.2008

The Mark Acres Chronicles

8/3/87

As far as Mark Acres is concerned, the jokes are to be expected. The same way Red Sox faithful expect a teasing from New York Mets fans after last year's World Series. The same way guests on "Late Night with David Letterman" expect to be ripped.

Acres has heard most every religious, Jim and Tammy Bakker, preacher and Oral Roberts joke on the market. Acres , you see, played his college ball at Oral Roberts University.

"I hear them all the time, everywhere I go," explained Acres. "I heard them even before I went to Oral Roberts, when people found out I was going there. You take them with a grain of salt.

"My favorite one? Gosh, I don't know. I could name a bunch."

The 6-foot-11-inch, 225-pound forward is no jokester though. Like the other free agents at the Celtics' camp at Brandeis University, he's on a serious job search. His path has been an erratic one: from the Dallas Mavericks to Belgium and now Boston -- with a stint in the Far East on the 1982 US Select team.

Acres admits his life hasn't been extremely consistent, but it's been fun. Especially his two years in Belgium. "That was great," he said. "But the first year was kind of strange, definitely not as fun as the second year. I had no social life that year, and I wasn't used to being away from my family and friends.

"Everything was better in the second year. I learned a lot that year, especially the difference between basketball over here and in Europe. They're definitely a notch behind over there. There's no intensity. (In America) you have to pick up the intensity at all times. You have to keep that intensity."

At Oral Roberts, Acres had the intensity of a pit bull. He was the third- leading scorer in the school's history (2,038 points for an 18-point average), and his field-goal percentage (.564) and blocked shots (164) rank him first on the all-time list. Acres was an honorable mention All-American four times.

The native of Inglewood, Calif., was drafted in the second round (40th overall) of the 1985 draft by the Mavericks. But in competition with Uwe Blab and Bill Wennington for a spot on the roster, Acres lost. So it was off to Belgium. "I had a nice offer that I couldn't really refuse," he said.

Though Belgium waffles became a part of Acres' diet for two years, his appetite for the NBA still lingered. That hunger surely would be satisfied should he make the Celtics squad.

"A lot of people (on the Celtics) were injury-prone last year," said Acres, who played on the Los Angeles team in the 1981 Boston Shootout. "Their big-man situation really hurt them in the playoffs.

"The Celtics are also getting older. They're already one of the oldest teams in the league. In those respects, I feel good about my chances."

And what are his chances of hearing a religious joke if he should make the team?

"I'm sure I'd hear them," said Acres, grinning.

Well, did you hear the one about . . .

Greg Kite can't believe it's hoop time already.

"Yeah, it does seem like the season just ended a little while ago," said a much thinner Kite, who had been back home in Houston before returning to work out at Brandeis. "But that's life with the Celtics. This is how it is with most every team; there has to be a rookie camp in the summer."

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