|Kenny Smith. Courtesy Turner Sports.|
Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson were recently inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame for their work on the acclaimed TNT show Inside the NBA.
Smith was in his hometown of New York City, and spoke to the media about the NBA season, which begins Tuesday night when the Knicks open the season in Cleveland against the defending champion Cavaliers.
On how good the revamped Knicks can be:
55, 56 (wins) is their ceiling...I'm putting an injury meter in my mind, like Derrick Rose is going to play 65 games...(Kristaps) Porzingis will be better, your sophomore year is your easiest year in the NBA because the first year, they figured you out; the second year, you figure them out...I think Carmelo (Anthony) will play a lot like he did in the Olympics, but he is still the guy you get the ball to the last three minutes of the game, whereas before you gave it to him with ten minutes left. You don't have to get to him every play. Let him be the guy at the end of the quarters.
On the Brooklyn Nets:
I can't think of five guys on that team.
On the Philadelphia 76ers losing number-one pick Ben Simmons for most, if not all, of the season:
I'm not sure how good they would have been with him, but the fact that you don't even get to see it, you know, because I wasn't really high on him, but just too many of the same guys, plethora of the same thing...They're the only team that actually plays like '90s, early 2000s, where they throw it inside. They're going to throw it inside. you got to put up with a post.
On seeing any similarities between Ben Summons and Tim Duncan:
Um, same complexion, that's about all I see right now. There's a difference between playing well and being able to make you win. Tim Duncan early in his career could make you win, like he wasn't finding himself, he knew what he could do. When he came into the NBA, his points directly related to wins. On some teams, you can get 18 points and it doesn't affect the win column. My high school coach used to say 'there's a 17-point scorer on every team in the world. There's no team that doesn't have won.' But does it affect wins? That's the difference, and Tim Duncan affected wins. Tim Duncan made the system.
On who will be the most improved team in the NBA this season:
Indiana, although I'm not sure what Chicago is going to look like, they have an opportunity to be unique. This will be the first time Dwyane Wade will be playing without the ball, and if he's able to play well in that with less responsibility. You got him now, Carter-Williams, Taj Gibson, they have an interesting dynamic.
On NBA players protesting social issues:
This is one thing I was talking about when the whole Black Lives Matter movement started, some were saying guys were scared of losing their endorsements. Be realistic, there's only five guys you see on TV. Most guys don't have endorsements; Michael Carter-Wiliams doesn't have a real national deal with anybody, like he can speak up. What guys are playing that actually have deals? Kevin Durant, D-Wade, LeBron, it was Kobe, and then Shaq! Like no one else has national endorsement deals...The richest guy in the NBA does not have a national commerical. Mike Conley, I have never seen on a national commercial. The guy who makes the most money in the NBA doesn't have a deal, so it's like he doesn't have a deal with any company, why be afraid to speak out? All these guys can speak out.
On the Chris Bosh situation, where he did not pass his physical before the season after suffering from blood clots ended his last two seasons.
I feel bad for Chris Bosh because he had, honestly, if he played last year, I could have seen them in the Eastern Conference Finals, the way (Hassan) Whiteside was playing and D-Wade was still playing. I feel bad for him because I think he's going to have to retire. If he can't get it done in Miami, who's going to take that same chance?
On who he would like to see join Inside the NBA at some point:
We're waiting on Kobe. I'm putting it out there, Kobe. I'll out it out there again, Kobe, we need you. Kobe first, KG second. Shaq on that end, Kobe on that end...We're making the Hall of Fame tonight, we'll make it again with that. It would be fun.
On what he thinks of Kobe Bryant:
Kobe's not understood, I don't think people really know him. I don't really know him, I don't know what stories to believe and not to believe about him. I don't know how obsessive he is, I just hear stories...To me, he's the guy we have to dig a little deeper.
On the interaction between himself, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson on Inside the NBA:
I think the one thing people have to have with us, you have to acknowledge your shortcomings. Charles acknowledges that he's overweight. I acknowledge that I have bad knees. We're going to bring those up just as much as we're going to bring up the positives about each other as well. Charles is probably top-two power forward in the game, we're going to say that, but I'm still going to say you're overweight, if you were in shape, you probably would be the best. Those thoughts in the back of your brain, they can't stay there with us, they have to come out.
Ernie and I were together before and we were kind of doing it. When Charles said he was going to come to NBC or us, and he's like 'you guys just talk like you talk.' We don't have like a script or anything like that. In my second year there, I'm like 'why am I going to a production meeting?' He's like, 'Well, you have to know when the commercials are.' No, Ernie has to know when the commercials are. But, then you can tell us what's going to happen in the game. I don't know what's going to happen in the game until I see it. Alright, you don't have to go to a production meeting. So, for the last 16 years, I haven't gone to a production meeting. Charles has never been to one, I've been to five, Shaq's never been to one. When we come on to the set, no one knows what we're going to say. I don't know what they're going to say; they don't know what I'm going to say. Every now and then, we'll text like we're going to talk about this big trade, and it's never you talk, me talk.
On if Inside the NBA can be replicated:
No, because we don't do a show. If you saw us in the hotel lobby on the way over, it's the same thing, it's not a show. It's not like I'm thinking about what to say, I'm just reacting like we're talking now. I'm never thinking about, well, let me write this thought down. Only time I write stuff down is when someone says something I really like or hate and don't let me lose that train of thought. Shaq just said 'Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the history of the game.' Wait, okay, let me remember that. He's really good, but not the best in the history of the game, so let me write that down and go back to it.
Nobody can do what we do because he is what he is 24/7, Shaq is who he is. He's tripping over monitors now, he's not just doing that for the show, you can't plan stuff like that. The world has to fit to his size, so who else is going to be like that? When he first got there, he struggled honestly. There was two things that he was struggling with. The first was, I went to him and said 'Shaq, I just want to say one thing, this is the first team you're on that you don't have to be the most powerful guy, you don't have to. Just fit in. You don't have to come up with the biggest line or the funniest thing or the most intelligent basketball thing.' Just say what you would say if we were in the green room. The second one was, our producer TK called Charles and me over, and he was screaming at us, he's pissed, 'what the hell are you guys doing? Every word he says, you guys say something, he's thinking you're making fun of him. Charles is going back and forth, and I go 'TK, when do we not make fun of someone for saying something?' He goes, 'Meeting's over!' He was nervous too because everyone was nervous too that we were trying to get on him, no, but that's what we do with each other anyway.
We've got 82 games all year, sometimes you don't pay attention. One time, Shaq comes in and he goes, I don't even remember who it was, 'D-Wade, they gotta help get the ball more to D-Wade,' but he got injured in the first five minutes of the game, so he hadn't watched, he just said it. So we're like, 'D-Wade's not even in the game, man!' If we don't say that, we're not true to who we are. We could have let him get away with it and then see if somebody else catches it and they write about it...
I think we were social media before social media, we were like instant, instantaneous rapport. I always say, I can make anyone trend from our show. I can make you trend on social media because if we say certain things in a certain way and it's engaging, it's going to trend.