Marcus Smart mentored by Chauncey Billups
My readers know the respect I have for five-time all-star and 2004 NBA Champion, Chauncey Billups. Well, this past summer, Celts Assistant Coach Jay Larranaga and Marcus Smart met with Billups for several days. Chauncey and Marcus did some on-court workouts, watched film and discussed the game. Here is Jay Larranaga's take on the meeting (per Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach):
“I just thought it was a great role model for Marcus. Even their style of play as physical guards that are really good in pick-and-rolls, really good at hitting the open man and just making all their teammates better, it just seemed to make sense.”
Billups and Smart are similar in many ways. Size, build, defensive tenacity, late bloomers, skilled distributors, mediocre shooters early in their careers. Rick Pitino trading CB in his rookie season truly hurt the Celtics', and the rookie's, development. Take a look at the video highlighting 10 plays from Chauncey:
As most of us know now, Smart lost considerable weight over the summer which should help him considerably on both offense and defense. We are hoping that this season he will rise to a new skill level, and I believe that will happen. This is what Jay Larranaga thinks (via Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach):
“When I see Marcus, I see a guy that’s going to be a very good 3-point shooter, a very good pick-and-roll player and an elite defender,” Larranaga said. “I think his shot and decision-making are going to continue to get better and better, and his defense, especially being lighter and quicker, is going to get better and better.”
The 2003-04 Detroit team overachieved and beat a powerful Lakers team in five games to take home the trophy. A great series by Billups and solid team defense worked beautifully. Chauncey took home the Finals MVP award, and I remember Ben Wallace doing a terrific job defending Shaquille O'Neal.
Rip Hamilton never stopped moving on offense, and Tayshaun Prince was everywhere on defense. Rasheed Wallace averaged 13.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the series. As an aside, three of the starting five are former Celtics. Billups in his rookie year and Rasheed at the end of his career. Tayshaun had a quick cup of coffee with the Celts after being traded from Memphis, and then was shipped back to the Pistons.
The Lakers admittedly had some injuries, but they also had four super stars, O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone. The Pistons had none. Billups' line in the finals series was 21.0 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 50.9% from the field, 47.1% on threes, 92.9% from the line.
It is a bit of a long shot, but the Celtics are capable of repeating that feat. Anything can happen once a team makes the playoffs. Don't think Marcus and Chauncy didn't talk about that during one of their meetings. Would love to see it happen. Think they have a shot?
Smart photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports
Billups video credit: NBA
Smart video via MassLive
Detroit Piston photo via Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images