Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When Dennis Smith Jr. takes the floor on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, the stakes will be a little higher than your average preseason game. His performance in the Knicks' final two preseason games will factor heavily into who New York starts at point guard on opening night. Smith Jr. -- who missed the Knicks' first two preseason games with a back ailment -- is competing against Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina for the starting position.
On Wednesday, New York will get a chance to evaluate Smith Jr.'s new shot for the first time in a formal game setting. They'll also see how he plays with a lighter frame.
Below, Shawn Farmer, Smith Jr.'s former trainer and an ex-pro himself, discusses Smith Jr.'s shot, his new frame and some other topics, including the NCAA recruiting scandal:
Q: WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THE CHANGES THAT SMITH JR. MADE TO HIS SHOT?
A: From the time that I saw him shoot this summer, he was very focused on his mechanics. And I thought it looked really good. I think he's very confident in it and the work that he's put in to tweak his mechanics
Q: YOU'VE SEEN HIS SHOT MORE THAN ALMOST ANYONE ELSE. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHANGES THAT YOU'VE SEEN?
A: Getting the ball out of his face, on the right side and being a two-eyed shooter as opposed to a one-eyed shooter. Having a clear window.
Q: HOW MUCH CAN THAT HELP HIM?
A: I think tremendously. Once you get confident with the ball being in one place and being on balance, I think the Knicks fans will enjoy seeing his percentages go up
Q: HE SAID HE'S MADE CHANGES TO HIS BODY, DROPPING ABOUT 15 POUNDS. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIS BODY COMING INTO THE SEASON?
A: One thing I know about Dennis is he's always conscious of his body. Back when he was at NC State, we had a conversation about how they were lifting weights. He felt really heavy. And I think with the 15 pounds that he's lost, he's already an explosive and special kind of athlete. But with him being comfortable with losing that 15 pounds, I welcome it. I like to see him light as opposed to looking like a defensive back
Q: HOW CAN THAT HELP HIM ON THE COURT?
A: Energy-wise, it's definitely going to help. I think he understands that now, being that this is his third year in the NBA. He knows that he needs to last longer and I think by him dropping weight, that will help him tremendously.
Q: SWITCHING GEARS TO THE NCAA RECRUITING TRIAL HERE. YOUR NAME WAS MENTIONED IN TESTIMONY BY FORMER ADIDAS CONSULTANT TJ GASSNOLA, WHO SAID A PAYMENT TO THE SMITH FAMILY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNELED THROUGH YOU. DID YOU EVER RECEIVE MONEY FROM THEN NC STATE COACH ORLANDO EARLY - OR ANYONE ELSE - TO GIVE TO DENNIS AND HIS FAMILY?
Q: WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT THAT TIME AND YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE PROCESS?
A: Nothing… Other than that Dennis Smith Jr. and his dad, they're good people. I never get involved in what school a player chooses attend. I coached AAU basketball for 10 years and I can assure you that none of my players would say I got involved with their recruiting. I always leave it up to the player and the parents. Some agents came to me to give me money to get to (the Smith family) and I never brought it up to them because I know that wasn't their focus. I'll have more to say at some point down the line, but not right now.
Q: BUT YOU SAY THAT AGENTS REACHED OUT TO YOU TO TRY TO GET TO DENNIS, WHAT WAS THAT PROCESS LIKE?
A: It was crazy. First and foremost, I did meet some good business people (who were trying to meet with Smith Jr.). I met more good, honest people than bad people. But the bad people were awful. I'm talking about people waiting outside my home when I wake up in the morning (to try to meet with Smith Jr. and his father). I've had people offer me jobs and that's stuff that I didn't even bring to the Smiths because Dennis Sr. or Jr. wouldn't even entertain it. I got a chance to really experience the business side of it and experience the cut-throat, do-whatever-it-takes aspect of it to get a player.
Q: SO YOU WERE OFFERED MONEY FROM AGENTS TO GET A MEETING WITH DENNIS SMITH JR. AND HIS DAD?
Q: CAN YOU SAY HOW MUCH YOU WERE OFFERED?
A: A lot (laughs). Again, I'm not comfortable sharing any details at this point. I'd like to talk about that but I'll wait for a later date to disclose more agents, shoe companies and those elements.
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE LIKE DURING DENNIS' RECRUITING PROCESS?
A: As I said, I didn't have much involvement in it. But I'll say that the biggest scandal is not allowing some of these top athletes to enter the professional ranks. If they're an elite kid, like a Dennis Smith Jr., a Bam Adebayo, a Harry Giles - just talking about the kids from North Carolina that I knew of - we knew point blank, they were sure-fire pros. They should be able to go straight to the NBA. I don't think it's for every kid. But for those kids - the De'Aaron Foxs, Jayson Tatums - those kids should be able to go pro. Kids can go in the military and learn how to shoot an m-16 at 18, but they can't play professional basketball?
Q: THERE'S A LAW IN CALIFORNIA THAT WOULD ALLOW NCAA ATHLETES TO BENEFIT FROM THEIR NAME, IMAGE AND LIKENESS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS THERE?
A: I've been training kids for 25 years. I've been an advocate for athletes to be able to capitalize off of their likeness because I was an athlete. Kudos to the governor of California and lawmakers that are trying to push it through. Because a lot of people that are sitting at the top, they have no clue what it's like to come from a disadvantaged area or broken family. They have no idea. And the only outlet we have, sometimes, is our God-given talent. For them to tell us that there are rules in place to prohibit us from making money, and they're making money off of the sport? It's not fair.
You've got athletic directors' kids and grandkids and college coaches' kids and grandkids, they'll probably enjoy a financial advantage (from the coach or AD's salary) in part because of the success of the student athlete. And the athletes can't get paid? Don't get me started.
"Let me add this: on the NCAA/FBI investigation, if you take notice it's hard not to see a racial element here. All of the assistant coaches were African American. None of the head coaches have gotten anything. And most of them were Caucasian. How are we supposed to look at that? If you look at most staffs, the African American assistant related well to the African American athletes. So they were heavily involved in the recruiting process, and got targeted and caught up in the scandal. Also, the assistant coaches and a trainer were all African Americans, in my opinion, can further the unfair association between African Americans and criminal activity, which I think is unfortunate. It hurt me to see Tony Bland and Book Richardson involved in this. And it's hard not to see a racial element there."