Posts Tagged ‘Jay Larranga’

Smart moves are all there for Celtics


VIDEO: Celtics.com takes a look back at Boston’s Orlando Pro Summer League stint

ORLANDO — Marcus Smart came into the week with the goal of improving his shot selection.

Then he spun like top around Elfrid Payton, found just a crack between a pair of Magic defenders on the perimeter and finally finished at the rim with an improbable scoop that was one of the jaw-dropping highlights of the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I was going to scoop it with my left,” he said with a grin. “But I’m glad it went in.”

So much for shot selection.

Of course, the 6-foot-4 guard has never been anything close to a classic shooter, playing more like a tight end rumbling toward the goal line.

“I’m not your (average) point guard strength-wise,” Smart said. “I have a 6-9 wingspan so that helps me a lot. I have a little advantage over a lot of guards.”

Smart shot just 41.3 percent from the field (29.5 on 3-pointers) in his two college seasons at Oklahoma State and his shooting numbers have not been the kind to write home about. He made just 20 of 68 shots in five games this week.

Yet despite his offensive struggles, Smart repeatedly showed the the fire and aggression that were some of the biggest reasons why the Celtics made him the No. 6 pick in the Draft. His hands were constantly moving, reaching out and stripping the ball from the grip of his opponents. He used his strength and size to often smother opponents and was a willing and capable passer, averaging 4.2 assists per game. There are times when he simply out-muscles and overwhelms opponents on defense.

“Marcus has done a great job of picking the team up and giving them both defensive and offensive energy,” said assistant Jay Larranaga, who ran the summer league team.

Smart also demonstrated the knack for rising to the occasion down the stretch of games and taking — and making — big shots, no matter much he’d be struggling to find the basket earlier.

“I’ve always been told, if you want to be a good shooter, and I have a good shot, you can’t worry about the last play,” he said. “You have to move on. That’s Ray Allen, the best shooter in the NBA, I think. That’s why he’s so good. He can miss four in a row, but you know that fifth shot is just made for him. You just have to keep shooting.”

The shot will come. The coaching at the NBA level can work with Smart on his choices to make him more functional. But the Celtics have every reason to be happy with what they’ve seen from Smart this week.

“It’s still really early, but Marcus came in with a really good understanding of the defensive side,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “That’s rare for rookies. Usually defense prevents them from getting on the court. I don’t think defense is going to prevent Marcus from getting on the court.”

Majerus’ Hoops Impact, Friendships Transcended NBA, NCAA Lines

CHICAGORick Majerus‘ formal connections to the NBA were modest. He spent one season as an assistant coach on Don Nelson’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks (1986-87), and for a number of years was a TV analyst of the college prospects on NBA Draft coverage.

But basketball is basketball. Xs & Os are the 1s & 0s of the game’s binary code, a universal language across its many levels.

The man who died Saturday at age 64 after years of battling heart disease – for all his NCAA success at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and most recently Saint Louis – had friends, mentors and devotees who reached basketball heights (The Finals, the Olympics, the Naismith Hall of Fame). And he had fans and now mourners who never left the gyms and playgrounds of Salt Lake City or Milwaukee, where Majerus was most comfortable, after all.

Tom Thibodeau, coach of the Chicago Bulls, had known of Majerus through Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers -– it was Majerus, remember, who christened the kid formerly known as Glenn with that nickname (Rivers wore a Julius “Dr. J” Erving T-shirt to a summer basketball camp where Majerus was working). But after Thibodeau got hired by the Bulls in 2010, a friendship developed between the two basketball lifers.

That first year, Thibodeau met Majerus in Milwaukee for a long dinner about basketball and life – the stout and curious Majerus rarely had any other kind. Then in the summer of 2011, the two got together – with mutual hoops junkies Scott Layden (now Spurs assistant GM) and Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant), and Majerus’ girlfriend – for a week in Santa Barbara, Calif.

More coaching chatter. More lavish meals, no matter how low-rent the joint. More philosophizing. Genuine and not one of those sideline strutters from central casting.

“We’d talk basketball during the day,” Thibodeau said late Saturday, after the Bulls’ victory over Philadelphia at United Center. “Went out to dinner at night. Went for rides and stuff. He could talk about so many different things.

“The guy was just mesmerizing. He could talk about any aspect of the game. I have piles of notes about his basketball philosophy. He’s probably one of the top five basketball coaches at any level.”

Like many who knew Majerus, Thibodeau thought of him as a combination of the Marquette coaches who gave Majerus his start, part gamesman like Al McGuire, part details guy like assistant Hank Raymonds. But Thibodeau also saw, so many years later, the influence of Nelson, the Bucks’ “mad scientist” coach, from their season together and subsequent friendship.

“Nellie is very innovative, and it opened up the way Rick looked at things,” Thibodeau said. “He was one of those guys, I think he could have been a great coach in any sport. He understood things like team building.”

Majerus had attended the Bulls’ home game against Denver last spring at United Center – Nuggets coach George Karl was another of his great NBA friends. Thibodeau spoke with him in June, when Majerus’ exit from Saint Louis was still a health sabbatical, not yet the forced retirement that was announced last month. They missed each other in L.A., unknowingly staying in the same hotel when Thibodeau went out to meet with free agent Omer Asik.

“It’s so sad. I feel terrible,” Thibodeau said. “He lived life to the fullest, that’s for sure.

“The job he did at Utah – unbelievable, taking that team to the championship game against Kentucky. Think about that. Last year he had such a great year, too [with the Billikens] and he had that team coming back.

“He was one of those guys who got absolutely the most out of his teams. Whatever ‘the most’ could be, he did it year after year after year. To me, that’s the mark of greatness, to be able to do it over a long period of time. And he did it so many different places.”

Here are other reactions from Saturday night, from Majerus’ NBA connections:

Rivers: “That’s a tough one for me. He’s the one that gave me my name. … I knew before the game that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I don’t want to talk much about it.”

Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, the point guard on Marquette’s 1977 NCAA title team: “For me personally he’s always been there. He’s one of those guys where, you don’t see Rick for a while and then when something is going wrong or you needed some help, boom, he’d be there. He did so much for me over the years when I was trying to get my career going, just extending himself and giving you whatever you needed, whether it was a phone call or having me come out to Salt Lake and stay with him 4-5 weeks at a time working. He would basically give you the shirt off his back if that’s what you needed – whatever it took. He’s going to be really missed. A great person.”

Milwaukee scout Bo Ellis, top player on that Warriors squad: “When I came to Marquette, Rick was still very young. He was just getting started too. But always prepared. Great basketball mind. I remember, he stole all of [Al McGuire’s] jokes. A good person and a fantastic basketball man.”