Q+A: Kenny Smith
The former NBA Champion and current analyst dishes on all things basketball.
SLAM: What are your thoughts on the “one and done” rule, that forces rising basketball stars to play at least one college season before entering the NBA? Are you in favor of it?
Kenny: I think that there should be a change. It’s something that hasn’t been proposed or ever really discussed at all. The change I would implement would be to reverse the system. In other words, everyone in college should be eligible for the draft. Meaning, everyone who is in college is eligible to be drafted, unless you take your name out and say, “I don’t want to be drafted.” As opposed to right now, where you’re in school and not in the draft unless you declare, I think it should be the reverse. The NBA should look and say, everyone who is playing is eligible to be drafted unless they don’t want to be.
I think the one thing that affects college basketball most is misinformation. So forget the high school players—there’s only gonna be one every 10 years that’s really ready, anyway. But the “one and done” is the fact that they’re getting misinformation, because these kids are not allowed to talk to NBA execs, they’re not allowed to talk to NBA coaches until they declare, and they rely on agents who play a numbers game, who are only looking out for themselves because they just want their client to get drafted so it increases their numbers. If I’m an agent and I have 20 guys, if only three of them stick in the league, it doesn’t matter because I’ll still get a sufficient check. So my point is, if everyone’s eligible, you’ll know if you’re ready because you’ll get drafted. For example, you’ll be eligible, receive information and get a feeling of where your stock is, and then get drafted. And on the flipside, if you don’t want to go to the NBA just yet, you can withdraw your name before the NBA Draft. How great would that be? And then if you enter the draft but don’t get drafted, you can just go back to school, because nothing is binding at that point. I’d like to see the system turn on its head and be reversed.
SLAM: Interesting view… Let’s shift gears to some NBA stuff. How’s it been working with Shaq this year? Has he changed the dynamic? You, Chuck and Ernie have always had great chemistry, but bringing Shaq along, some people had some questions about it. But it seems like you guys are flowing great, and you’ve welcomed him with open arms.
Kenny: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I think overall the one thing that Shaq adds is that he’s just one step removed from the NBA, so he has stories of the guys who are currently playing. Where, you know, Chuck and I don’t, we’re a little bit further removed than him, so I think that’s just an added bonus in terms of the knowledge we can provide.
SLAM: For sure. When Shaq was an NBA neophyte, your Houston Rockets swept his Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. Do you ever give him crap about that?
Kenny: All the time, man. Always gotta give him a reminder when he needs it (laughs).
SLAM: What’re your thoughts on Dwight Howard opting-in?
Kenny: I was surprised, especially after all the speculation and what he had said. I just thought he was going to let this year play out, because he had the right to do so. But in a sense, his decision is really a non-decision, because it doesn’t look like the Magic have turned the corner and both sides will most likely be in the same position this time next year.
SLAM: How valuable is Dwight, though? At this point, would you say he’s undoubtedly better than Andrew Bynum?
Kenny: As well as Andrew’s been playing, I still would say Dwight’s better. I think the one thing that Dwight does is that he instantly changes a franchise just by himself. I think that overall, though, there are times when he’s just not as offensively engaged as the great big-men we’ve seen before.
SLAM: But that’s a tough look, Kenny. What does he need to do? Work with Olajuwon, or do something else? Like, why doesn’t he have four post moves? Why does he only have one-and-a-half?
Kenny: The same way some guys just don’t have the defensive skills like he has. Sometimes there are things that you work on that you just don’t have, and you just have to start learning. And you know, it’s to the point where sometimes he’s just not engaged, so that’s an added, unnecessary obstacle.
SLAM: What about Kevin Love. I know you were busy during March, but did you keep tabs on him? He averaged 31 and 14!
Kenny: Kevin Love has taken the reigns as the best power forward in basketball! He’s slowly become an unsolvable problem.
SLAM: Who would you take right now, Kevin Love or Blake Griffin?
Kenny: To play this year or to start a franchise?
SLAM: Isn’t that the same question? Both are young and entering their primes, right?
Kenny: No, because while I’d take Kevin Love to play this year, and probably next year, I would take Blake to start a franchise because I think he still has more upside, while Kevin is at his ceiling. Kevin is at his ceiling right now. He can’t play any better than this. He’s doing 30 and 20!
SLAM: Touché. Who’s your MVP?
SLAM: Over Durant?
Kenny: Over Durant. But it’s like 1A and 1AA, not even 1 and 1A.
SLAM: Who’s your Title pick?
Kenny: Miami Heat.
Kenny: I just think this year the games are over. Like, there’s no more hoopla, there’s no more controversy, there’s no more extracurricular. It’s just basketball. And they’ve been playing great basketball because of that.
SLAM: How many more years do you think we’ll be seeing you doing this “Inside the NBA” gig? Have you even thought about that yet, or is it not even like that?
Kenny: Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve been getting a lot of coaching knocks, so I think I’ll eventually move into coaching. I’ve looked through the peephole but I haven’t really answered the door yet.
SLAM: No doubt. College or NBA?
Kenny: Not sure. I just get a lot of knocks at the door, but I still haven’t opened it yet. I will at some point, though.