I sat down and had a quick spliff of basketball boom with "Inside The NBA" co-host and two-time NBA Champion Kenny “The Jet” Smith at the CBS and Turner Sports NCAA Media Day.
The legendary NY guard is not only the pride of Lefrak City, Queens, but he’s a student of the game and a mouth piece for several generations of city-born ballers and what that culture represents.
Smith already has his celebrity status on lock, but his entire family is doing big things in 2015. His daughter Kayla Brianna Smith has launched a singing career and she dropped her debut single, Honest during All-Star Weekend. Apparently, she’s down with that Rich Gang movement.
We can follow her progress and the rest of the Smith clan on their new reality show,"Meet the Smiths," which debuts on TBS April 3rd.
Gambler: Would higher scoring games garner college basketball more attention in the months leading up to March Madness?
Jet: Well I think that the one thing about college basketball has always been the competition. When you can watch a team from Mercer beat a team from Duke and always be interested. It’s a one and done game situation. The “one-and-done” college player has also hurt college basketball, but the competition is what always keeps people interested. National Bracket Day and the emotion surrounding that. People fill out brackets that have never watched a game of college basketball in their lives. So that’s the intrigue and captivation of college basketball. If your alma matter is playing… you’re always going to have an affinity towards them, whether your team is winning or not. When college teams make the tournament, it brings out all of the fans and alumni. This year you might have St. John’s fans start coming back around. So it doesn’t matter about the scoring or anything else in college basketball. It’s all about the competition.
Gambler: How important it is for St. John’s to be relevant again, making the Big Dance for the first time since 2011? The Red Storm is a No. 9 seed and they're playing No. 8 seed San Diego State in Charlotte on Friday in the South Region.
Jet: It’s more important to the Tri-State area than college basketball. St. John's has had such a bunch of great players and great history and you can always reference something when you watch them. This makes it fun as a viewer and Red Storm fan when you can reference a Walter Berry, Chris Mullin and Mark Jackson.
Gambler: Last year when I spoke to you in the hall way you told me to watch Connecticut. What’s your prophetic pick this year?
Jet: (Laughter) …Yeah last year I think I was good last year. Picking Connecticut that early…it was right before the conference tournament and I saw them and I said, “they can win it.” This year I think Wisconsin’s going to win it all though. I think that team is so disciplined and if they get Jimmy Jackson’s son back to contribute at any point, they can win it all.
Gambler: What do you think about the NCAA infractions that hit major programs and their leadership every few years or so and the current players who have to suffer for it?
Jet: Well it’s unfortunate that the current players IF they are not participating in any of the infractions have to be victims to what happened before they got there. I enjoy the fact that the coach can get suspended for his part in that infraction for 10 games or 15 games. But having the players that are there in 2015 suffer because of an infraction that was committed in 1998 is unfair.
Gambler: What do you think of the point guard play in the NBA? As a point guard who boasts two NBA championship finger-blingers, how many cats are playing at an elite level?
Jet: I think the point guard play is the most exciting part of The League every night.
Gambler: The best in the last 25 years?
Jet: Yeah…but there’s always been good guards. Even when I was in high school at Archbishop Molloy in Queens. We’d play a team that wasn’t that good and we’d say, “we’re going to beat them by thirty.” But they got a good guard; you know what I’m saying? It’s always like that. Good guards have become more of a premium than a good big. A good big separates you from the elite teams. Guards can make you a great team, but the truly elite teams are elevated by the big men.
Gambler: Is the NBA allowing more physical play than in the past, particularly on LeBron James? It seems like that is the case. I kind of like it.
Jet: I think that more guys are being more physical with him. I don’t think that the NBA is enforcing any kind of new leniency. I think that more teams are now doing it knowing that he is such a physical specimen that you have to meet that with some type of physicality.
Gambler: Do the Knicks take Okafor or Towns?
Jet: You try to get them both. The Knicks need a lot.