So, if I’m really being honest with myself, I want to play basketball, but if I had to sign today or tomorrow, the answer would be “No!!” I look at it like this: I’m not willing to play the role that I’ll be needed for right now, which is to provide veteran leadership, a locker room presence, insurance in case someone gets hurt, etc. In a few months, if the right team that has an identity and a need for what I bring calls me, then maybe. Rosters are full and everybody is trying to figure out what type of team they want to be. I’ve watched training camp practices on NBA TV and I don’t have a desire to go through that right now. I don’t think I need to be on a roster – and go through pre-season – for a team that doesn’t quite need me yet, doesn’t have an identity or know what they are going to be in the future. I have an identity and I know what I bring to a team. I’d rather sit back and enjoy my family and see my kids off to school every morning than sign with a team that has so many unknowns.
September 26, 2016 | 5:40 pm EDT Update
He has the cushion of the annual money from Detroit and rejected a lucrative offer from the Chinese Basketball Association this summer. In Smith’s mind, the end game is a return to the league – and he promises modified habits on and off the court and increased patience of team situations. “My main goal is that I am an NBA player,” Smith said. “Being able to go overseas, people are professional, but the NBA is what I have built myself to do. I’m still hungry. If I jumped to leave my NBA chances behind, I feel it would’ve been an act of desperation. I’m not a guy who feels like I have to start or play 30 minutes a night anymore. I wish for an opportunity to be able to contribute, to be a positive guy around the locker room. It has been missing from me. I’m not doubting it. I felt I have always showed support for my teammates, cheering for them, but I have to do a better job. I feel I have something to give the NBA, period.”
Smith entered the NBA out of high school, establishing himself as one of the league’s most explosive and versatile forwards in his first nine seasons with his hometown Atlanta Hawks, but he never found his footing in his second NBA stop in Detroit. The Pistons waived Smith in December 2014, just over one season into a four-year, $58 million contract, which Smith believes still affects his future. “The perception of me seemed to start early on with Atlanta, but after Detroit, it left people completely puzzled,” Smith said. “People didn’t understand how it happened, how I was let go. It just didn’t fit. But wherever I have gone in development situations, I have been able to be on winning teams. When I came to Atlanta, we were at the bottom. Al Horford came, and we made it a consistent playoff team. When I went to Houston [in 2015] after Detroit, we made it to the Western Conference finals, something that they hadn’t done since the ’90s. I played impactful minutes for us to get to those platforms.”