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Jackie Mac Bids Farewell to Michael Smith (11/3/1991)
The release of Michael Smith officially ends one of the more unpleasant chapters in recent Celtics draft history.
Who can ever forget Red Auerbach's words on the day they selected Smith as the 13th pick overall: "He could be another Larry Bird -- we hope."
Well, Larry Bird might not be the quickest player in the league, but he never would have let Kiki Vandeweghe (his nickname isn't Speedy Gonzales, either) blow past him three straight times on the baseline, including one time for an in-your-face jam. That happened to Smith in Madison Square Garden two seasons ago.
And Larry Bird would never watch a rebound come off the rim and opt to let it go out of bounds rather than try to grab it to ensure possession. Smith made that decision in Chicago Stadium, and while he watched the ball go to the sidelines, Bulls forward Stacey King retrieved it and started an easy fast break for his team.
In truth, Smith never seemed to grasp just how important the little things like defense and rebounding were to his future. He is a terrific shooter, but there is so much more to the game of basketball. Besides, his slow release made it difficult for him to get his shot off on this level.
The operative phrase when discussing Smith is "right player, wrong decade." Had he been around in the '50s or '60s, when the game was not played above the rim, he probably would have had a solid career.
Smith recognized he was miscast in Boston's up-tempo scheme. And give the guy credit: he remained a good soldier throughout his tenure, taking the high road rather than becoming a malcontent. He is a highly intelligent person with many skills besides basketball and he will succeed in another sector of life.
In other words, the parting of ways is best for both parties. It was time for the Celtics to acknowledge this pick as a colossal blunder, and time for Smith to get on with his life.
There has been virtually no talk of another team picking Smith up, but we know never to say never. One club you can definitely scratch off the list is Minnesota. One of the things that left Jimmy Rodgers such a bitter man in Boston was that he did not favor drafting Smith in 1989. He preferred B.J. Armstrong.
In fact, there are many who believe the departure of K.C. Jones was also directly related to this pick. He was operating as a personnel director at the time, and he, too, had players he wanted ahead of Smith. When his input fell on deaf ears, it became clear to him he would happier if he moved on.
Now -- finally -- it's time for Michael Smith to do the same.
- #05 (Walton)
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- 1971-72 Lakers
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