Taipei, Nov. 6 (CNA)－Former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Greg Smith feels the healthiest he has been in years and is looking forward to leading his new team into the playoffs in the coming Super Basketball League (SBL) season.
Bank of Taiwan, one of the seven teams in the semi-professional SBL, announced last month that it has signed the 27-year-old former NBA center/forward.
The 2.08-meter Smith arrived in Taiwan over the weekend to prepare for preseason games that begin Wednesday before the 16th SBL season kicks off on Nov. 18.
Speaking to CNA in an interview Monday evening, Smith said he is now 100 percent healthy and he is excited for the new season. “I am ready to go all the way.”
Asked about his goals in his first SBL season, Smith said he is prepared to be the leading scorer for the relatively young team to help it make a deep run in the playoffs.
“It won’t be easy. It’s going to take working hard every day, but I think we can push into the playoffs and go further,” he said. Bank of Taiwan finished at the bottom of the SBL standings in the 2017-2018 season.
Smith did not want to talk about the team’s last-place finish last season, stressing that it should look ahead instead of looking back.
“If you think about last year it could hurt you. We have the talent and we should be able to do it (go deeper in the playoffs),” he said.
After going undrafted in the 2011 NBA draft, Smith first played in Mexico before finding his way into the NBA. He played for a number of NBA teams over five seasons, averaging four points and 3.3 rebounds per game in a total of 149 NBA games.
After Smith’s stint in the NBA, he went on to play for teams in Turkey in 2016, and the Philippines and Japan in 2017.
His NBA career was held back in part by injuries. After his best season in the league, when he averaged 15.9 minutes per game in 70 games for the Houston Rockets during the 2012-2013 season , he hurt his right knee early the following season in November 2013.
After reinjuring the knee, he only played in 11 games for the Rockets that year, and never played more than 42 games in an NBA season (with the Dallas Mavericks in 2014-2015) after that.
Smith said his knees have continued to bother him over the past few seasons when he has played abroad, but feels he is now fully healthy for the first time in years.
Looking back on his time with the Rockets, Smith remembers getting along well with Taiwanese-American NBA player Jeremy Lin (林書豪).
“Our two years in Houston together were wonderful. I saw him grow as a player even until today. I love him. He was so humble,” he said.
Both Smith and Lin were undrafted players and both shared the dream of competing in the NBA, the world’s highest-level professional hoops league, according to Smith.
He also shared some stories about Lin, saying that the point guard used to make fun of him in his rookie year with the Rockets. “Every practice he got a new joke (on me). He’s just a fun guy,” Smith said.
Making fun of each other off the court actually brought the two closer together and helped their chemistry on the court, Smith recalls.
Looking to the new SBL season, Smith said he’ll bring a lot of energy to his team for the full 40 minutes every game.
“Whether we make the shot or not, we’re going for the rebound and playing hard. [If we do that], good things will happen,” he said.
According to Bank of Taiwan head coach Wei Chen-ming (韋陳明), Smith’s first appearance with Bank of Taiwan is likely to be on Wednesday, when the SBL teams will play a series of warm-up games at Changhua County Stadium.
Describing Smith as an easygoing person, Wei said the ex-NBA player is expected to bring his experience to the team to help it grow.