Interview: Josh Smith

Interview: Josh Smith
May 29, 2004, 01:00 am
Jonathan Givony: Hey Josh, how are you? Where are you at right now?

Josh Smith: Good. I'm in Houston.

Givony: So you graduated from high school on Saturday, right? What are your plans for the next month?

Josh Smith: Yeah, on Saturday. I'm going to workout hard and then whoever wants me to come in and workout, I'll meet them and that's what I'll do.


Givony: So you guys are probably going to wait until tonight (lottery night) to figure whom to work out for, but are you going to work out for teams that aren't in the lottery also?

Smith: We haven't decided yet.

Givony: I know a lot of players that have been working out in private gyms and with individual coaches for the past two months getting ready. Do you feel like you are a little bit behind in the way you've prepared yourself for the draft so far?

Smith: No, I don't because at school (Oak Hill) I was probably working as hard as those other guys were. I had a basic idea of what an NBA workout is like, and I did that at school with one of my coaches there. Now I'm up here in Houston working out so I really think that I'm at the same place that they are.

Givony: To many basketball fans that aren't draft fanatics, you are kind of an unknown, why should they hope that their teams draft you next month?

Smith: Well, I bring leadership to the table and a positive attitude about things. Most people don't have the same heart that I do. I love the game of basketball and I just play hard, and I really don't worry about what other people say about me.

Givony: Josh, going from high school straight to the pros man, you are going to be playing against grown men, some of whom may have it out for you a little at first until you gain their respect. Do you see this as possibly being a humbling experience?

Smith: Yes, I believe it will be humbling, but I'm not going to back down from anybody. I'm trying to make a name for myself.

Givony: I remember watching the McDonald's All-American game dunk contest a few months ago, and I think that whole thing with Candace Parker kind of pissed off a lot people. I mean, she's nice and everything, but I don't know if her dunks were that great that she really deserved to take your spot in the next round. Do you think that they were giving her a little bit of a break because she's a girl?

Smith: Yeah, I think they did. But I'm happy for her. I mean, for her to go down in history and all that. But I think it was a little fixed the way they did that.

Givony: So what's the sickest dunk you've ever done? In a game, practice or whatever. Anything come to mind?

Smith: In a game I did a between the legs, that might be the most exciting dunk I've ever done.

Givony: I think I saw a highlight clip of that, was that in Spain?

Smith: Yeah that was in Spain.

Givony: Man, I remember watching that video when it came out, damn. You and Rondo did some crazy things over there; did you guys have fun?

Smith: Naaa, not really. I felt kind of like I was feeling the struggle of another man. My clothes got there late, and it was cold. I really didn't like the food either.

Givony: (laughs) You didn't like that Spanish food man? What, they didn't give you any Paella?

Smith: Naaa, they just didn't give us enough. For breakfast we had like crackers and cheese. It was alright, though. The fans were great out there. They showed a lot of love.

Givony: Did they know who you guys were?

Smith: Not really until we started playing, and they started to get to like our team, with my game, and my point guard's (Rajon Rondo) game.

Givony: There was a Spanish kid there that played for one of the teams, his name is Sergio Rodriguez. Do you remember him?

Smith: Yeah I remember him. He played in the Hoop Summit game too. He has kind of a smooth game, he did alright. Nobody really knew of him when we went down there. He did a third step there, you know in Spain you get an extra step and we're used to two steps so he had a little bit of an advantage over us. I talked to him in San Antonio at Hoop Summit; we both remembered each other so it was cool. We talked a little bit about our game.

Givony: You had a great game there at Hoop Summit, 27 points or something like that. What happened there?

Smith: The reason why I had a good game was because I had a little bit of anger built up. I was mad at myself because I was never myself in the all-star games before that and I felt that I didn't show myself to any of the, uh, crowd. And I was playing for my country and we were playing in the team concept so I didn't want to let my country down, we had some bad games, so I took it upon myself to be one of the leaders on the court. That motivated me.

Givony: So what was it like playing next to Telfair?

Smith: He was kind of nice to have because he really is a true point guard, he sees the floor well. He got a lot of players involved in the game.

Givony: I remember watching the Capitol Classic game on ESPN, Jay Bilas was saying there that your teammate Rajon Rondo is a much better player then Telfair. What do you think of that?

Smith: I wouldn't know (laughs). I want to stay neutral on that one man.

Givony: So could the international players just not guard you in San Antonio? You just lit them up it seems.

Smith: I was feeling that they can shoot, but they are real slow, so I used my quickness to get past them and I used my athleticism to finish.


Givony: So the lottery is tonight. It's probably going to come down to Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor for whoever gets the number one pick. If you were a GM, who would you take?

Smith: I would probably have to say Howard because I known him since pre-school. But I wouldn't know really, I might have to stay neutral on that one too because Emeka is a great athlete as much as Dwight is, and they both play hard, so it's going to be a tough choice.

Givony: So when was the first time that you could slam dunk?

Smith: I think I was like 13. I was at practice one day, and we were on a fast break and I just dunked it. I was real surprised. And then I did it in a game, and I was even more surprised by that.

Givony: So if you were invited, would you participate in the slam dunk contest next year?

Smith: I probably would.

Givony: Did you watch it this year? It kind of sucked, no? Do you think you would have a good chance at winning it?

Smith: I think I do. It's been a little dead lately. I might have to give a shot at it.

Givony: So who do you think your game resembles the most in the NBA?

Smith: Tracy McGrady. Because we are the same height and he's a versatile player like I am.

Givony: So how is your defense? I know that when T-Mac wants to play defense he can, because he's got that footwork and that great wingspan. How is yours?

Smith: I see my defense as being good too, because I use my arms, I'm long. And I also move my feet well because in practice I guarded Rajon (Rondo) and in pickup games I guarded him too. He's so quick and he knows that me guarding him makes me a better player defensively because it makes me quicker and more aware of what's going on.

Givony: So what do you think are the main things you need to improve on?

Smith: I just want to improve on everything, whatever they say I need to improve on, I'll go in the gym and work on that. If they keep coming up with more stuff, I'll keep working on whatever they say that I can't do.

Givony: So do you think your defense is good enough to guard a guy like McGrady or Ron Artest right now?

Smith: (long pause) I would say I have to work on that. Even Lebron James didn't guard the best player on the court. That comes with more maturity and experience to guard those kind of players.

Givony: Right now you aren't the number one ranked player in your age group, how does that sit with you?

Smith: That's just their opinion. I'm going to leave that up to them.

Givony: So why do you think you're ready to go to the NBA right now?

Smith: I believe I'm mentally ready and physically ready, and I just left my decision up to God. Me playing every night and listening to my dad and mom I feel like I'm ready to take that step.

Givony: You ever played against JR Smith outside of an all-star game?

Smith: Yeah I have.

Givony: Do you think he's ready for the NBA?

Smith: If that's what he feels like. I'm not in his situation or anything; I'm not in his body. If he feels that he's ready then that's him, I can't give an opinion or make that choice whether he's ready or not.

Givony: We just put up an article today on the site about one of his workouts in Atlanta against Kirk Snyder and Luke Jackson. They really didn't give him an easy time. I know that some of these college guys are going to be coming straight at you Josh, you better be prepared. You ready for that?

Smith: Better challenge. Bring it on.

Givony: Did you watch a lot of NCAA ball this year? Was there any one particular team or player that you followed?

Smith: Yeah I did watch a lot of NCAA ball. I watched everyone play, though.

Givony: David Stern is talking about making a developmental league so teams can send down younger players to get playing time instead of sitting on the bench losing their confidence. Would you be willing to play in a league like that if you were asked by the team that drafts you?

Smith: No, I wouldn't. It's all about waiting your turn. If it's not your time then you should sit on that bench until they feel like you are ready. I think I would learn more about the game itself from the veteran's point of view, by looking and listening, instead of going to play and not knowing really what tricks and moves to make.

Givony: If you could pick one player in the league from any team in the NBA to be on your side next year, who would you take?

Smith: I'm going to have to say Kevin Garnett. Because he works so hard, and he really wants it right now. I really want him to have the championship because you see how many years he's been working to be at the place he's at right now. He's just so tough, he goes at everyone, the guy is a beast.

Givony: How would you feel being drafted by the Bobcats? Would you be willing to go to an expansion team and help them out with the marketing and all that?

Smith: Yeah that would be great, to play right off the bat. It's a new team, there are probably going to be a lot of young players coming together, and we'll probably grow together as a team.

Givony: Do you ever stop and think to yourself about some of the things you might be missing out on by not going to college?

Smith: Not really. I probably feel like the only thing I'm going to miss out on by not going to college is my studies. And parties and stuff.

Givony: So what do you plan on doing with the money you'll be making next year from your contract and endorsements?

Smith: I'm just going to put it under my mattress.

Givony: (laughs) You're not going to buy an Escalade, or some bling or something like that?

Smith: I'm probably going to buy my dad, my mom and myself a car, and then buy an apartment for the first couple of years. Make some investments, stuff like that. I want to come out of the game with some money, not just broke.

Givony: So Josh, what do you like to do in your free time?

Smith: I like to play video games, I like to study some of my tapes, and I like to read the bible a little bit.

Givony: Any specific music style or artist you are into?

Smith: I like R&B. Jagged Edge, Usher, that kind of stuff.

Givony: If you had to rank what kind of rookie season you think you'll be having next year on a scale, where let's say Lebron was a 10 and Ndudu Ebi was a 0, where do you think you'll be?

Smith: (laughs) You talking about next year right? I feel like I'll probably be an eight. An eight or a nine.

Givony: There are going to be thirteen high schoolers in this year's draft. Is that crazy? Or am I just crazy for thinking that's crazy?

Smith: Yeah, that is kind of crazy. It all goes back to whether they are ready or not. So I guess they think they are ready.

Givony: The person that wrote your scouting report for our website had some nice things to say about you, but he also said that you are very, very raw, and that most of your game is centered around your athleticism right now. Do you think that's a fair assessment of your game?

Smith: No. If they gave me a chance to prove myself, I'll show ‘em just how raw my game is.

Givony: So I guess that's pretty much it Josh, I'll let you go now. Do you have any workouts lined up for next week?

Smith: I know that on Tuesday I'm going to work out with Atlanta. There are more, but I'm not sure exactly who yet.

Givony: I think we have you being drafted right around where the Hawks are in our mock draft. That would suit you OK, playing in Atlanta?

Smith: Anybody who picks me would be fine, but I would love to play for Atlanta because that's my hometown.

Givony: Alright Josh, thanks for answering our questions. This turned out a lot better then I thought it would. Good luck in the draft.

Smith: Thank you. Impossible is nothing. Remember that.

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