On this episode of The HoopsHype Podcast, Alex Kennedy is joined by point guard Russ Smith. The 26-year-old won a national championship at Louisville (which was recently vacated), played three years in the NBA and is currently thriving in China. Kennedy and Smith had a wide-ranging conversation, and the time-stamps are below.
1:40: Smith is 26 years old and in the prime of his career, but he’s spent the last two seasons in China rather than in the NBA. Smith explains why feels he belongs in the NBA.
2:55: Smith stressed the importance of finding the right fit for him in the NBA. He discusses what factors he’s looking for in a potential suitor.
4:50: His last NBA stint was with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015. But in the three seasons he was in the league, he only appeared in 27 games. He discusses how frustrating it was not being able to showcase his game.
6:45: Smith shares his thoughts on why he isn’t currently in the league, adding that no executives have given him solid feedback to explain it.
7:30: Smith makes the case for why an NBA team should they sign him and what he can bring to a franchise.
9:35: Coming out of high school, Smith received very little interest from colleges. He says he was a zero-star recruit until he committed to Louisville, then they gave him two stars. He explains how he ended up with the Cardinals.
12:45: A listener, Patrick Taylor, asked: What was the biggest adjustment Smith made from year one to year two at Louisville? That’s when he really burst onto the scene.
14:55: We’re in the middle of March Madness right now. Smith discusses the 2013 NCAA championship run. Smith averaged 22.3 points per game during that tournament and played an exciting style of basketball that won a lot of fans over. He then returned for his senior year and he was a superstar on campus.
21:55: Louisville recently had to vacate the title due to a scandal and head coach Rick Pitino was fired when the program was being investigated. Smith’s shares his thoughts.
24:45: Smith played three years in the G League, averaging 21 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. He describes the competition level in the G League and says the talent pool is underrated.
27:50: Smith explains how frustrating it was not getting called up when he was playing well in the G League and not knowing what he needed to do to appease NBA executives.
32:30: In the Chinese National Basketball League, Smith averaged 61.2 points per game. Prior to that, nobody had ever averaged over 45 PPG. He describes his mindset, what went so well in the NBL and what it was like stepping onto the court each game knowing he was basically unguardable.
35:05: This year, Smith played in the Chinese Basketball Association and put up 33.6 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals. He discusses his excellent experience in China, from taking in the culture to interacting with the passionate fans.
36:25: Smith says he’s like the Allen Iverson of China right now.
38:55: Once a player has overseas success, they’re typically taking a pay cut to return to the NBA because they have lucrative offers abroad and minimum or non-guaranteed offers from NBA teams. Smith discusses what it’s like to make that decision and what kind of NBA situation he’d be willing to leave money on the table to join.