The No. 1 overall pick in 1995, Joe Smith’s just about seen it all in the NBA, having played on so many teams that the Lakers were actually his 12th. He appeared in 12 games for the Lakers via a trade with New Jersey, and scoring a total of six points with 18 rebounds, and played just over 10 total minutes in the playoffs.
He was hoping for the chance at his first NBA title, but in his exit interview said he really valued his time in Los Angeles:
- Summing up his exit interview with GM Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson: Pretty much just what went wrong down the stretch, nothing too much in particular. Just my thoughts about what happened down the stretch, and any issues I thought needed to be addressed going forward.
- Smith tried to put his finger on what happened to L.A. in the playoffs: “When you have a team that’s won back-to-back championships with so much talent and veteran leadership, it’s kinda tough to put a finger on what happened. This team has been through a lot of wars together as a group, and with the nucleus that they have, you kinda almost feel that you’re invincible when you step out there on the floor. I don’t know if you we got a little too overconfident or not with that situation, but it’s just a tough pill to swallow to be sitting at home right now. You figure that no matter what situations they face on the floor, they’d figure out a way to get things going in their direction again. From the outside looking in, that was always my thought even when the situations weren’t in my favor. I always figured we have enough talent, we have the coaches, we have the ability to get out of this funk and over this hump and get things going in our favor again.”
On Phil Jackson: “He’s an incredible coach. A lot of people look at the rings, and from the outside looking in, think he had to do it with a lot of talent, but just being here a long … I’ve learned a lot from him in this short time. I’ve learned a whole different basketball terminology from him, and it’s been a pleasure for me to play for him.
On what stands out about Jackson: He still teaches the fundamentals about the game of basketball, and that’s something you kind of get away from if you don’t practice it. One of the practices (after) I got here we were doing chest passes, over head passes, things like that. He teaches you different pivots to get you out of danger, just small things like that that you kind of forget about it you don’t practice it.
- On Andrew Bynum, from a guy who’s played with and against the league’s best centers for years: “23? That’s incredible. The size that he has, the ability that he has at the age of 23 … the sky is the limit for him. I’ve seen him go against some of the top centers in the league and pretty much dominate. Like I said, the age of 23 with still a lot to learn about the game, a lot to learn about his position and he’s willing to put the work in. He definitely has the potential to be the best center in this league one day.
- Smith said he’s definitely going to try and still play in the league: “I’m going to keep the wheels rolling. I feel pretty good. I take care of my body, and it held up all season long for me. I still love to play the game, still enjoy being in the locker room, the bus rides, the plane trips. If I’m fortunate enough to get back on a team next year, I’m gonna keep rolling. They’re going to have to drag me out of here.”