Greg Smith: "Kevin McHale wants me to be a beast"

Greg Smith: "Kevin McHale wants me to be a beast"


Greg Smith: "Kevin McHale wants me to be a beast"

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USA TODAY Sports ImagesI just watched some of your highlights when you were in high school… Still throwing down the same dunks in the NBA.

Greg Smith: [Laughs] I'm trying, I'm trying.

There was a famous player wearing No. 4 with the Rockets – Charles Barkley. Why No. 4?

GS: Nothing special, it's just my favorite number. Wore 44 before, now I'm wearing No. 4. And if he wore that jersey, I have to try and do my best!

I'm told you're a big fan of comedy… I'm going with Will Ferrell and Dave Chappelle. How about you?

GS: Yeah, I like it a lot: stand-up comedy, movies… I like Chappelle, Martin Lawrence, Will Smith, Chris Tucker. Love those guys.

Your path to the NBA hasn't been easy. First you were not drafted by any NBA team, then there was the lockout. Did you have offers to play overseas back then before deciding to play in Mexico?

GS: Yeah, I did have some offers. One was from South Korea, another from Spain, but I was not really sure about going overseas with the lockout so I decided to stay closer and play in Mexico.

Yes, you began your professional career in Mexico with Soles de Mexicali before being acquired by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in December 2011. How was that Mexican experience?

GS: At first, I really didn't like it. But later with the help of my teammates and the coaches it was a great experience and it helped me out a lot.

In which way did it help to play with the Valley Vipers?

GS: It was good, it helped me to improve my skills, my post moves, to get in better shape, to be ready to play in the NBA. 

And then came the Rockets. How was that first conversation with GM Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale?

GS: It was a good conversation. They told me I had to work hard, come out and play with energy, rebound, play defense… That's what I'm trying to do. You put me out there and I'm going to do everything I can to help my team win the game.

You are a power forward. How do you feel about the center position?

GS: My natural position is power forward but sometimes I have played center. The league has great true centers like Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert… They can play and play good defense. You still need a true center to win games.

Getty ImagesWhat has been your favorite game so far? For example you had 21 points and 9 rebounds in a 107-105 win over the Lakers on December 4… Was that game a turning point in your career?

GS: Yeah it was. They are one of the best teams in the league so it was a big game for me. I tried to play good and showcase my skills, showing everybody that I can play with the best and help this team. After the game I felt that was the proof that I belong in this league.

You've been compared to some old-school players like Otis Thorpe. Which player did you admire growing up? 

GS: Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudemire… Those were the guys I really watched. They have the skills, post moves, play defense, block shots… Those were the players I liked to watch when I was growing up.

Tim Duncan. Kobe Bryant. Those future Hall of Famers take care of their bodies and they are performing at such a high level at their age. Do you like to eat healthy? 

GS: Of course. If you take care of your body, everything will be fine. That's why they don't suffer serious injuries and can still play at that level and that's something I want to do as well. I definitely try to eat healthy, the right food, I don't drink soda and try to drink a lot of water.

How's your relationship with Kevin McHale?

GS: It's a very good relationship. He talks to me a lot, he tells me about how to be a beast in the paint, he says, "Never allow anybody taking over the paint because the paint is yours." Basically be a beast. "Always take every game like it's your last." He's a Hall a Famer, he knows what to do on the court so it's great to have him on my side.

The performance of the Lakers this season is really surprising. What did you think about them when you played against them?

GS: I can't say what's happening there. They are very good team, but at the end it doesn't matter if you have talent because it's hard to play without chemistry.

James Harden. He's proven an All-Star and a true scorer. Do you think he could score like 80 points?

GS: He's a superstar, his basketball IQ is very high, he knows how to win, a wonderful teammate. It's good to have him on our team as a leader.

Royce White. What can you say about his situation?

GS: I don't know what to say about the Royce situation. I don't have an answer to that question because I don't really know what has happened between him, the team and the D-League.

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