HE’S GREEN ACRES NOW : Former Palos Verdes High Star Returns Tonight as a Member of the Celtics
Mark Acres was opening Christmas gifts at his parents’ home in Palos Verdes Friday morning.
“There are a couple of large packages under the tree for him,” said Acres’ father, Dick.
Acres, however, got his best Christmas present last month when the Boston Celtics handed him a green jersey and told him that he had made the team.
Acres, a 25-year-old rookie center, came to the National Basketball Assn. by way of Europe and Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, where he was coached by his father.
Acres, 6-11 and 225-pounds, was originally drafted in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks in 1985. However, he wasn’t given a shot at making the team because the Mavericks had selected three players in the first round ahead of him--Detlef Schrempf, Bill Wennington and Uwe Blab.
“It wasn’t that Mark wasn’t good enough to make the Mavericks,” Dick Acres said. “It was a numbers game. He played well in camp and during the exhibition season but they didn’t have an any room for him.”
After being cut by the Mavericks, Acres played for a year in Verese, Italy. But he was miserable off the basketball court.
“I didn’t care for it,” Acres said of the season he spent in Italy. “The social life wasn’t great and there was nothing on TV.”
Acres returned to America and attended the Mavericks’ training camp last year, but Dallas had drafted 6-11 forward Roy Tarpley and Acres could see that he had no future in Dallas.
He requested and was granted a release from the Mavericks and spent last season playing in Belgium, where the level of basketball isn’t very high.
Acres tore up the Belgian League and Forddy Anderson, a former coach at Michigan State who scouts in Europe for the Celtics, spotted Acres and brought him to the attention of the Celtics.
The Celtics contacted Dick Acres, who acts as the agent for his son, and signed him to a contract during the NBA finals last June.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Acres.
The Celtics signed him before the moratorium on signing new players went into effect. If they had waited to sign him he wouldn’t have been eligible to attend the Celtics’ free agent camp last summer.
Acres played well in training camp and during the exhibition season and earned a spot on the Celtics’ roster. He was one of three rookies who made the team. The others are Reggie Lewis, a 6-7 forward from Northeastern, and Brad Lohaus, a 7-0 center from Iowa. Lohaus rooms with Acres on the road.
“Obviously, I thought I could make the Celtics or else I would never have left Europe because I had guaranteed money there,” Acres said. “I knew what I had to do to make the team. I went to camp and tried to play as consistently as I could.”
Acres has gotten the most playing time of the Celtic newcomers and has pushed Greg Kite, the Celtics’ journeyman backup center, out of a job.
Officially, Kite is on the injured list with a bad back. However, team insiders say that Kite is history. Kite appears to have been pushed aside because Acres’ strong play made Kite expendable and the team wanted to open up Kite’s roster spot to sign guard Dirk Minniefield.
Acres has made the most of his chance with the Celtics.
He averaged 18 minutes a game off the bench before forward Kevin McHale, who missed the first month of the season while recovering from off-season surgery on his right foot, returned to the team.
Acres and the rest of the Celtics’ reserves have been playing a key role this season.
Acres had his best game of the season last Sunday as the Celtics pounded the Philadelphia 76ers, 124-87, at the Boston Garden to move back into first place in the Atlantic Division. It was Boston’s most lopsided win ever over the 76ers in a regular season game.
Acres, who was averaging just 3.5 points, scored 19 points against the 76ers to share the team scoring lead along with Larry Bird.
The Celtics (15-8), who struggled earlier this season but appear to have gotten back on track, winning four straight since Magic Johnson and the Lakers beat them, 115-114, two weeks ago in Boston.
The Celtics open a five-game Western trip tonight with a game against the Clippers at the Sports Arena (Channel 5, 7:30). And Acres, who returned home ahead of the team to spend Christmas with his family, will have a big cheering section at tonight’s sold-out game.
“My parents have bought 50 tickets for the game,” Acres said.
Mark Acres comes from a basketball family.
Father Dick spent 20 years coaching at Carson High, where he became one of the most successful prep coaches in the Southland. Acres quit to become an assistant coach at Oral Roberts after leading Carson to the State high school championship in 1982.
However, Dick Acres’ two oldest sons--Mark and Jeff (26)--didn’t play for him in high school.
Mark, a 6-11 center, and Jeff, a 6-8 forward, attended Palos Verdes High. Mark Acres was voted the CIF Southern Section Section 4-A Player of the Year after his senior season in 1981.
The Acres brothers followed their father to Oral Roberts.
Dick Acres was elevated to head coach just six games into the 1983 season. The Acres brothers led Oral Roberts to a 21-10 record and a spot in the NCAA tournament in 1984, losing to Memphis State.
Oral Roberts just missed the NCAA tournament the following season. Dick Acres left Oral Roberts when his sons graduated in 1985, returning to Southern California to take a job in private industry.