One of the most colorful players not only in Cleveland, but the entire NBA, Earl Joseph Smith III is currently enjoying a rebirth in Northeast Ohio. The 11-year veteran out of Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey has seen himself become an integral part of a Cavaliers team that is poised to do some amazing things in June, and he owes his current relevance to a cutback in night outs and a clear direction set forth by the presence of LeBron James and the guidance of coach David Blatt.
Obviously, Smith has a lot of things to offer on the basketball court with his ability to light it up from downtown and score in bunches. But apart from that, he also has some interesting and pleasant surprises up his sleeve and Marc Narducci of Hoopshype.com was able to capture those in his one-on-one with J.R. Smith.
Here are a some goodies from the interview.
You are 20th in the NBA history in three-pointers made, but you have never been in the three-point shooting contest. Would you like to be?
JRS: Yes, of course. When I was younger my goal was to win a dunk contest, win a three-point contest. The dunk contest is out for me, so the three point contest is hopefully next.
You were the co-MVP of the 2004 McDonalds All-American Game (with Dwight Howard), scoring 25 points. Did that game catapult you to turn pro or were you going to regardless?
JRS: I was thinking about it, but that game definitely catapulted it. I always had aspirations coming out of high school so that put me in the best situation.
I know you get asked this all the time, but what is it like playing with LeBron James?
JRS: For one, he elevates everybody’s game and holds everybody to a higher standard. He makes you hold yourself to a higher standard. This is the first team I have been on where everybody stays after practice to work on their game. Everybody wants to be better every single day and a lot of that has to do with him. He is a credit to that. He holds himself to a high standard. We see how hard he works each and every day. If your best player is working twice as hard as the next person, it gives you enthusiasm and drive to work harder.
You are a former Sixth Man of the Year. Does it make a difference coming off the bench or starting and do you prepare differently for the different roles?
JRS: I don’t prepare differently. It doesn’t really matter to me. It is a matter of what lineup works best for our team. For this team, it is probably better that I start because I help stretch the floor and give LeBron and Kyrie (Irving) opportunities to work. It would be easier for me to play with the first unit because we can swing the ball, move the ball better.
You have qualified for the playoffs eight times and appeared in 69 playoff games. What do you take from being on so many postseason teams?
JRS: I still haven’t reached the mountaintop yet. That is the only thing I am waiting on. I have been on so many good teams, won so many games but I just want to reach that mountaintop once before I am done.
J.R. Smith has done a lot of great things and sans the distractions that he was part of early in his career, who knows what other accomplishments he might have had right now. But with the kind of personality that Smith has, one can bet that he would not take back any of those experiences.