Still smarting from their playoff loss to the Lakers, the Boston Celtics have been looking for a few good (big) men and, in one case, some choice Acres.
Before selecting several big men in Monday's National Basketball Assn. draft, the Celtics placed a call to Palos Verdes Estates, located 6-10 free agent Mark Acres and signed the former Palos Verdes High star to a contract, conditional on his making the team.
Acres, who went on from Palos Verdes to all-conference honors at Oral Roberts University, where he teamed with brother Jeff and was coached by his father, Dick, has spent the last two seasons playing in Europe.
The Acres family feels this may be Mark's best shot at the NBA, despite Boston's standing as one of the NBA's preeminent and star-laden teams.
The Celtics are an aging team whose top big men--forward Kevin McHale and centers Robert Parish and Bill Walton--suffered injuries and are in various stages of repair. McHale had foot surgery this week and may not be ready for the start of next season, and Walton--also facing foot surgery--is not expected to play next season.
Acres figures as a power forward with shooting and rebounding skills--as well as excellent passing and ball-handling--and sometime backup center. He'll report with other rookies to a camp the first week of August in Boston and will also play in the NBA Summer League at Loyola Marymount.
"The timing may be good," Dick Acres said. "He's just got to go in with the attitude Europe doesn't exist, the only option is the NBA, and give it everything he's got. At least that's the parents' attitude."
Mark, a bit more cautious with a European contract that includes a home and car guaranteed in Belgium, said, "Everybody wants me to stick, 'cause I've never really gone for it as far as the NBA. After that first camp, if there's a good chance (of making the team), sure I'll go for it. I just don't want to get caught out on a limb."
In Monday's draft, the Celtics picked 7-foot Brad Lohaus of Iowa in the second round and later selected Cal's 6-9 Dave Butler, a Rolling Hills High graduate who has been working out with Acres. But the Celtics' first choice was Reggie Lewis, a small shooting forward from Northeastern.
"I don't think that hurt Mark's chances," Dick Acres said. "I think he's got a great chance. So does Boston. Their scout said he's got a great chance. Basically they're looking for someone to play 12 to 14 minutes, play backup wherever he's needed, get some rebounds and when he gets in trouble, pass the ball to (Larry) Bird."
Acres was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks two years ago out of Oral Roberts, but Dallas stockpiled big men that year--drafting Uwe Blab and Bill Wennington ahead of him--and Acres was cut. He caught on with Team Verese, a club team in Italy.
Last year Acres looked at the Dallas situation and again opted for Europe, playing for Mariandenne in Belgium.
"The situation was still the same in Dallas--they had all those big guys on guaranteed contracts, plus they drafted (Roy) Tarpley," he said. "They didn't need me. The position was full."
Acres had a successful season in Europe, averaging 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds for a team that went 29-15. He also attained a level of celebrity in Belgium and saved enough money to buy a home near his parents in Palos Verdes Estates and a condo near Palm Springs.
But it's not the NBA.
"The Americans (playing in Europe) are good," he said. "The teams are not the level of the NBA. The European players are a notch behind. It's probably the level of good (American) college ball."
He said the coaching also is not as strong but that may have helped him develop more of a pro-style approach.
Acres, noted for his passing and team-oriented approach in high school and college--he was CIF 4-A player of the year in 1981 and is generally considered the best all-around big man to come out of the South Bay--said the European style "is more of a one-on-one type thing. I'm probably a little more offense-minded (than in college). You get to shoot a little more in Europe."
In preparing for the NBA, Acres and his brother are lifting weights four or five times a week, running at the beach with ankle weights and playing regularly. Mark, still rangy, has built up to 225 pounds. Jeff, 6-9, a year older than Mark at 25, played last season in Australia but is considering Europe next season.
Dick Acres, who won a state title at Carson High School in 1982 before going to Oral Roberts, is now a vice president with A. L. Williams, a financial marketing firm. He wouldn't mind investing some NBA money for Mark over the next few years.
He views this year as pivotal for his son, because the NBA will expand in 1988. If Mark can catch on this year, he's probably assured of a job for the next few seasons.
"He's just got to go in, give it 100% and be mentally tough," Dick Acres said. "Otherwise he'll be playing somewhere else."