1990-91 Boston Celtics
Remembering the 29-5 Start
The white, late model Toyota Camry with out-of-state plates pulled into the Hellenic College parking lot around 2 p.m.
The visiting dignitary, Derek Smith, emerged with his entourage of one, agent Ron Grinker. Celtics general manager Jan Volk accompanied them, and they cleverly ducked reporters by opening a door to the gymnasium, using a forsythia bush as a pick.
Secrecy abounded as the Celtics worked out the 29-year-old swingman for about an hour yesterday. Nothing was finalized, and Grinker and Smith were scheduled to fly back to Cincinnati last night.
"I think we're evaluating," said Dave Gavitt, the team's senior executive vice president. "We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. It's called 'sleep on it.' "
Before Smith arrived, the team made preparations for the not-so-secret workout. There was no explanation for the covert nature of it all, other than it's the Auerbachian preference.
The gym was cleared of undesirables. The quarter-inch slats in the doors were covered with white tape. Cones were placed on the floor in strategic locales, prompting one Celtic to crack, "If I were him, I'd take one look at those cones and say, 'No way. I'll see you at practice tomorrow.' "
The Celtics players knew about the impending audition. Center Joe Kleine, a teammate of Smith's in Sacramento, said, "Derek plays hard and he is very aggressive. But the situation there was so bad for everyone that it's hard to judge."
Yet the brain trust continued to play possum. Coach Chris Ford wouldn't respond to questions concerning Smith's imminent arrival. And Gavitt, when asked about Smith, simply said, "Derek who?"
Smith spent almost an hour being examined before he took the floor for some shooting drills run by assistant coach Don Casey. He took some jumpers and shot some free throws. He drove to the hoop. He wore a white, Hard Rock Cafe (Orlando) T-shirt and red, University of Louisville shorts with 'defense wins' inscribed on the right side.
In the stands, Gavitt, Volk, Ford, team physician Arnold Scheller and trainer Ed Lacerte watched in one group. Several feet away, Grinker and Red Auerbach, longtime soul mates and occasional adversaries (Cedric Maxwell), swapped yarns.
The big question about Smith is his health. His left knee has had more construction than Interstate 86, and he wore a wrap on it yesterday. His last operation was in early September, when he had scar tissue removed which, Grinker said, was the source of previous discomfort.
"How did it look?" Scheller was asked.
"Mechanically, the knee is sound," he said. "But he is a long ways away. Grinker and Smith are saying two weeks, and we don't think that's realistic. He has developed some bad habits because of prior injuries. But it's a solvable situation."
After shooting, Lacerte gave Smith a tour of the weights and exercise equipment. Casey was the first of the brain trust to leave.
"He went up and down," Casey said.
Finally, two hours after the clandestine arrival, Gavitt emerged, bearing drinks, sandwiches and a comment. He said he was reluctant to talk about anyone not under contract and never mentioned Smith by name.
"We're looking at all the options we have," Gavitt said. "There is no timetable. I think today was a good day."
While he spoke, Grinker and Smith quietly left.