Joe Smith’s First Lakers Interview

Joe Smith spoke to a few reporters at the team’s road practice site in Philadelphia on the day he joined the team after being traded for Sasha Vujacic and draft picks in a three-team trade with New Jersey and Houston.

Smith, the No. 1 pick in the 1995 draft, joins his 13th team in a 16-year career. He appeared in four games this season for New Jersey, playing a total of 24 minutes.

Below is the transcript:

On joining the Lakers:
Smith: It’s always tough going through a trade, especially when you have a bunch of young guys like we had in New Jersey that kind of blossomed towards me and I was able to help out a lot, but at the same time, at this point in my career this is probably a great move. This team has won two (titles) in a row and has a chance to win a third one, so hopefully I can be a part of that and try to bring whatever I can to the table to help us succeed.

On his impressions of Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher in particular during his 16-year tenure.
Smith: Winners. Phil has always been a winner, Kobe has always had a winning attitude and been a winner, Derek’s always been a winner. From afar, as an opponent looking in, that’s how we had to look at them, as winners. You have to bring your A game in order to beat them.

On the closest he’s been to winning a championship:
Smith: Eastern Conference Semi Finals with Cleveland a couple of years ago (2008). We lost to Boston in that series in (seven games). The excitement that we had in that series was something that makes you hungry to try and achieve it again. I think we have a good shot here, and hopefully we get it done again.

On if he thought a chance at a title had passed him by:
Smith: I did but I was still hopeful that something could happen like it ended up (happening) at a place like this. I was excited when I got the phone call, kinda sad and excited like I said, it’s kind of tough to leave a young group of guys that you’d grown close to, but at the same point you have to look at the bigger picture, especially at this point of my career.

On what he has to bring on the basketball floor and in the locker room:
Smith: Experience. It’s my 16th year, and I’ve been through all types of situations, winning and losing. I know what it takes to get through both. On the basketball floor, the same energy I’ve always brought throughout my career … defending, rebounding, knocking down shots when available.

On how his body feels physically:
Smith: It feels great. I haven’t had too much contact, I don’t have any injuries I’m nursing right now. Everything is holding up, I’m just ready to go now.

On why he wasn’t getting minutes in New Jersey:
Smith: They were trying to play the younger guys. We had four or five guys at one position: Derrick Favors; Troy Murphy; Kris Humphries. They were trying to develop them, and that’s why they felt that this would be a good opportunity for me to move on and try to do something special here in L.A.

On if he expected any trade was going to happen:
Smith: I didn’t, actually. I found out (while) we were playing Philadelphia Tuesday at home. I got a text from my agent telling him to call me a.s.a.p., that’s when I found out, about 50 minutes before game time. I heard “Los Angeles Lakers,” and I smiled the whole game.

On the triangle offense :
Smith: I got a quick tutorial, real quick. I wasn’t able to go through it with the players as of yet, but hopefully tomorrow everything will be cleared so I can do some physical stuff. It’s not as difficult as people think, but it does have its (tough parts).

On if moving so much gets any easier:
Smith: No, it never gets any easier. Somehow I accumulate more stuff when I get to a city than I ever expected. Yesterday was a long day with me packing, trying to get as much stuff in suitcases as I could. I still have some stuff back in Jersey, but hopefully I can get somebody to get the rest of it. (But) my family is in Arizona. That’s another good thing about this trade, being closer to my kids. My son is excited about it. He texted me like, “Are you really a Laker?” He’s 12. He was pumped up about it. They’re excited, I’m excited.

On going from a young team to a veteran team:
Smith: That’s key in this league, being on a team with guys that know what it takes to win games … sometimes it does get kind of frustrating when you come out with younger guys and you have a 20-point lead, and all of a sudden you see it vanish. On a veteran team that’s been through the wars, winning championships and things like that, they know what it takes to get to that next level.

On if he spoke to GM Mitch Kupchak or Coach Phil Jackson:
Smith: I talked to Mitch a little bit yesterday. Once the trade went through, we had a chance to talk a little bit. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Coach Jackson yet. Whatever my role is expected to be, that’s going to be what (I do).

On how he has no former teammates:
Smith: No, I don’t, this is the first team that I’ve been on that I have no teammate on. But Theo (Ratliff) and I, we’ve been (going at it) for years … and obviously just playing against these guys.

On if he remembers any specific games in which Kobe Bryant went off on his team:
Smith: He went off a lot … it’s not just one game, he went off a lot. He’s that type of player.