As a two-time NBA champ, a former collegiate All-American and now an Emmy Award winning sportscaster, NBA on TNT analyst Kenny Smith has a view and handle of the game few can match. And recently, the certified hoops lifer felt compelled to share a bit more of that wisdom with all of Hoops Nation. In a Vibe.com exclusive, “The Jet” opens up with his thoughts, observations and predictions about this wierdly unpredictable playoff season. Listen and learn…
VIBE: What has surprised you most in this year’s playoffs?
The Jet: Absolutely, it’s been the parity. This is the first season I can remember since forever when there really hasn’t been a N0. 1 or N0. 8 seed. Series are more about matchups this year, solely about how you line up against the team you’re facing. That’s why you’re seeing so many of the so-called big time powers struggling the way they have been.
VIBE: As someone who won a couple of NBA titles and spent ten years in the League overall, is there a different mindset you need to have come playoff time as opposed to the regular season?
The Jet: Individually and as a team, you definitely need to have a different mindset to be successful come the second season. The numero uno thing you have to have is trust. As a team, you have to trust that your game plan you're locked into is good enough to win. Say the game plan calls for you to double a guy and the guy you’re doubling off of is making shot after shot. If that’s the game plan, you have to willing and disciplined enough to stay the course. There’s always going to be adversity, what makes guys and teams better than others is the way they handle it.
VIBE: Speaking of trust, how surprised were you with the way things went down with the Lakers?
The Jet: I was surprised they went out 4-0. I’ve heard all the stuff about trouble with girlfriends and all that, but in the end you just have to admit this was a better Dallas team compared to years past. The Lakers had no answers for what the Mavs did best. L.A. doesn’t guard the pick and roll well and they don’t have any athletic big guys, those were things Dallas was able to take advantage of from the opening tip. In the playoffs everyone does their homework and the Mavs were able to find the thread that ultimately caused the Lakers to completely unravel.
VIBE: So, you don’t thing the distractions hurt L.A., all the “trust issues” Andrew Bynum talked about?
The Jet: All I know is you can’t win two championships like the Lakers did without having a tight locker room. Besides, when you get between the lines, all that other stuff goes away. I think the worse thing for a great team or a great player to have to realize is that they’re not as great as they once were or maybe still believe themselves to be.
VIBE: Who’s been your playoff MVP thus far?
The Jet: I would have to say Dirk Nowitzki. I think he’s underrated. People talk about all the struggles the Mavs have had in the playoffs in years past but it’s never been him that’s stumbled. You check his numbers and they’ve always been right there.
VIBE: Derrick Rose was the regular-season MVP. What do you make of his playoff run, is he being asked to do much for the Bulls?
The Jet: As great as DRose is, I think right now he’s being asked to take on too much responsibility. I think he’s at around ten percent overload.
VIBE: So, who’s you’re pick to win it all?
The Jet: Hard, hard, hard to say. I think Miami, with LeBron, Wade and Bosh, has the most talented first five, but I think Dallas has the best ten man rotation. And then, Memphis has the best inside post game and you still haven’t even talked about top-seeded Chicago yet. Tough, tough, but if I had to pick I would say Miami probably has the best opportunity. But, it’s just crazy.
VIBE: Yeah, it is. But word on the street is you still want to run a team one day. True?
The Jet: I will eventually coach or manage a franchise. The opportunity to teach and lead excites me.
VIBE: Tell me about the camp you’ve run at your alma mater (North Carolina) for the last few years.
The Jet: The Kenny Smith Carolina Basketball Camp works with youths on everything from the fundamentals of the game to helping build character and self esteem. It’s my way of giving back.
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