Travelin’ man Joe Smith still rarin’ to go

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Modified: December 16, 2008 at 5:04 am •  Published: December 16, 2008
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photo - San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) keeps the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward  Joe  Smith during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) keeps the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Joe Smith during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

/> "The more you win, the longer you stick around in this league,” Smith said. "It’s not about skills. I tell them don’t get caught up in this losing and don’t accept this losing because that’ll get you put out of this league quicker than anything.”

Smith has modest career averages of 11.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. His most productive year came during his second season, when he averaged 18.7 points and 8.5 rebounds in 80 games with the Golden State Warriors.

But it was Smith’s hustle and hard work that Cleveland fans remembered when they showered him with applause at Quicken Loans Arena on Nov. 26. This despite Smith playing in only 27 games for the Cavs last season.

And it wasn’t Smith’s production during his time with Minnesota but rather his professionalism that led Wolves coach Kevin McHale to hunt down Smith before his team played the Thunder and give him a big bear hug.

"He’s one of the nicest competitors you’ll ever meet,” Brooks said. "Everybody I’ve run into that knows him says nothing but great things about him. They love that guy, and I can see why. He has a contagious smile. He’s always in a great mood. He must drink tons of coffee because he’s always ready to go. He’s just a great guy to have.”

Smith has already grown close to Kevin Durant, and the reigning rookie of the year says the time the two spend together off the court is benefiting him in both basketball and life.

"Even though he was a No. 1 pick and has made a lot of money in this league and has been playing for 14 years, he’s the most humble guy I’ve seen thus far,” Durant said. "I was in the same position he was in, and guys like me can get big-headed. But he brings that humble mentality, and that rubs off me a lot.”

Smith credits players such as B.J. Armstrong, Chris Mullin, Chris Gatling and Tim Hardaway for teaching him professionalism.

"Even though we didn’t have the best record (with the Warriors),” Smith said, "they showed me how to approach the game with an attitude and with confidence, but at the same time with professionalism and how to go out there and do what you have to do to get the job done.”

No matter the city.

"It’s been a good ride for me,” Smith said.

One even Cash would be envious of.


L.A. Clippers at Thunder
→When: 7 tonight

→Where: Ford Center.

→TV: FOX Sports Oklahoma (Cox 37)

→Radio: WWLS 98.1-FM, WWLS 640-AM.

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