Tuesday, April 06, 2004

J.R. Smith still eyeing the NBA
UNC basketball recruit and McDonald's All-American, J.R. Smith has always had aspirations of playing in the NBA. After three strong performances in recent high school all star games, the only difference is now his professional dreams would start in three months -- at the NBA's June draft. Two weeks ago, Smith was planning on going to college and was not on anyone's radar screen. A lot has changed in a few weeks. Yesterday's Charlotte Observer reports that because of his recent successes, "Smith has altered his future thinking to include not only the Tar Heels, but perhaps a jump to the NBA."
"It all depends on where I'd go in the first round...But I want to go to college and have that experience."
He attributes his new mindset about the NBA to the fact that he's had some really good performances against the best high school players in the country. The only problem with this thinking is that these all star games promote offense at the expense of defense. So while he drains NBA-length 3's, there's no Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant or Bruce Bowen in his face. And while he gets his third 360 dunk in a game, it's uncontested (for the third consecutive time) because he was cherry-picking. That doesn't happen in the NBA (unless your Ricky Davis and just never play any defense, but that's not the point).

To be fair, Smith did admit he still wants to go to college and to be even fairer, you have to remember that this kid is still 18 and people much older have been persuaded to change their minds about things less important. At some level, you really can't fault the kid for thinking about the NBA when he says:
"I'm definitely aware of the NBA scouts," said Smith, who refines his jumper with 500 shots a day. "I mean, when Larry Bird (Indiana Pacers) or B.J. Armstrong (Chicago Bulls) is up there, you have to notice. And especially Pat Riley (Miami Heat)."
The good news is that even though he's thought about jumping straight to the NBA, Smith has been a UNC fan for as long as he can remember and looks forward to playing in Chapel Hill. When asked why, he replied that he's a big MJ fan and has a tattoo of a player wearing that number, and maybe more importantly because of:
"The team...They've got great chemistry. I want to be part of the North Carolina family."