August 21, 2008
Smith’s Hoping Stint In Europe Will Lead To Second Shot In The NBA
By Jordan Ingram
Always make your next move your best move.
Former LaSalle basketball star Steven Smith is hoping that a stint for Kolossos Rhodes in Greece will propel him back into the NBA. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound combo forward looks at his third year of pro basketball as entering the crossroads in his career.
“At some point you have to buckle down and say that you want to get more secure financially and be in good standing after basketball,” said Smith. “I’ve been in the NBA before but to get back I there’s certain things I have to work on and I think this is a step in that direction.”
Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Jim Lynam says that though Smith has NBA potential the window for opportunity is slowly starting to close.
“In my heart I believe he has NBA talent but scouts have already given him one shot when he was coming out of LaSalle so there is a window for him,” said Lynam. “Now he’s going through a period in his career where he’ll have to take advantage of his opportunities within the next couple of years if he wants to be in the NBA.”
Smith, who was a two-time Atlantic 10 Player of the Year with the Explorers, made the Sixers as a rookie free agent in 2006 but was released eight games into the season. He finished the season playing for the Anaheim Arsenal in the NBA Developmental League and played part of last season for Solsonica Rieti (the same team Joe “Jellybean” Bryant once played for) in Italy.
While many pro experts projected the versatile forward to have an easy time hanging on with an NBA team after graduating from La Salle, Smith hasn’t found a home thus far. Smith says he isn’t fazed by this fact and feels that success in the NBA is all about timing.
“In the NBA you never know,” Smith said. “Sometimes you just need a combination of things to go right whether it’s timing, what the team needs, injuries, or money. I try to keep a positive outlook because I’m still on NBA scouts radars and understand at the same time that it’s all a business.”
The business aspect can deter many basketball players from their NBA dreams but Smith is adapting to his surroundings. According to Smith, he’s a different person than when he was coming out of La Salle. Being older and wiser, the mature Smith understands that there’s many opportunities to get the attention of scouts but that all of them aren’t created equal.
“In your first couple years out of college it’s okay to force the issue trying to get into the NBA but after that point you have to be smart,” said Smith. “You can’t just think that you’ll play in the [NBA] summer league and you’ll get noticed by scouts. What most players don’t get told is that you might not get the opportunity to play and might be riding the bench out there.”
Smith says that heading into Greece he’s trying to understand that not getting playing time in an NBA Summer League works against him at this stage in his career. The time spent watching other players earn their spot on an NBA roster could’ve been used trying to get into a viable European country.
In Greece this season Smith plans on putting the finishing touches on improving his game so that he’ll be ready for the NBA in the near future. A natural power forward that’s an adept ball handler, has sound post moves, and good jump shot, he also has the ability to play small forward. Overseas he feels that his defense needs to improve in order to make the jump to the next level.
“Defensively I want to be able to guard more effectively and be a better rebounder,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, at this point in my career, people are still confused about what position I can play. Offensively, [scouts] know what I can do as far as creating mismatches but on defense they want me to guard different positions.”
In the current NBA environment, the market for versatile power forwards is better than ever. With NBA lottery picks like the Miami Heat’s Michael Beasley and Sacramento Kings’ Jason Thompson coming onto the scene, Smith gains more confidence, but also realizes that strong defense is the key.
“I’m real with myself and I understand that I’m not coming to a team to score 20 points a game if I get back into the NBA,” Smith said. “I’ll have to be the type of player that plays a couple minutes, runs the floor, and plays great defense so that’s why I feel a good year in Greece will help me.”
The diligent forward will also be aided in Greece by playing in the same league as former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress. Lynam feels that if he plays well in Europe this season that NBA scouts will take notice, but it won’t hurt if he puts a strong emphasis on when he plays against Childress’ team.
“The balls in his court…if he plays well than he’ll get attention,” Lynam said. “Josh Childress is a high profile guy so you have to circle the challenges that are going to be there and when the opportunities come you have to take advantage of it.”