Kenny Smith, already worn out by the Kings in 1988 (Getty Images)
Even though Kenny Smith only played two and a half seasons with the Sacramento Kings, he still remains one of the best-known and best loved Kings in spite of playing out the string for a triptych of poor teams from 1987 to 1990. Smith endured the powder blue uniform era that featured a series of much-respected but ultimately lottery-bound players like Wayman Tisdale, Jim Petersen, Danny Ainge, Ed Pinckney, Ralph Sampson and Antoine Carr.
Those teams would be a welcome replacement to some current Kings fans, frustrated at the thought of yet another misspent lottery pick being wasted on misspent youth in the upcoming draft, the final Sacramento draft for longtime general manager Geoff Petrie. Petrie will be replaced when his contract runs out at the end of this month, and the Kings’ new ownership group is making the rounds to try and establish a front office to blow this all up.
A front office that could include Mr. Smith, currently a famed and much-respected TNT analyst. Here’s USA Today’s Sam Amick’s talk with Kenny:
"We've been talking; we've been talking," Smith said. "That's all I'm going to say."
Except for the part where he said a whole bunch of other things. From Amick’s piece:
"I've been winning my whole life," Smith said. "I've been blessed to be a winner. So whatever happens, whatever I do, I'm going to win an Emmy next year or I'm going to try to win an NBA championship or I'm going to try to win in cards. I'm a winner. I'm a winner. I've been blessed in my whole life, so I think I have a clear vision."
(You’ll be forgiven if you immediately assume that the above quote is something that Kenny Smith practices saying into a mirror every day. You are a big, bright shining star, Kenny.)
(We josh, we josh.)
Amick went on to report that the Kings could be attempting to set up a two-tiered front office, with a well-known name presence with a solid Q rating (that would be Smith) working with someone more connected and influential in front office circles. Amick points to recent staffs in Indiana (with Larry Bird working along David Morway, who has interviewed for the Kings job) and the Golden State Warriors’ lineup of Jerry West and Bob Myers.
For a decade and a half, Smith has been fantastic as an analyst with both TBS and TNT, and it’s clear that he knows the game. The problem from there is understanding the ins and outs the NBA’s incredibly complicated collective bargaining agreement. Just through his work on Turner alone, it’s clear that Smith isn’t much of a capologist at this point in his career, but that sort of distance between what works and what doesn’t can be worked on.
And that’s just assuming Smith wants to leave the Turner gig. Because that’s a damn good gig.
It reminds of an anecdote Smith told on NBA TV’s fantastic ‘Open Court’ program back in 2011. Basketball legend Bill Russell was the Kings’ coach and general manager when Smith was drafted back in 1987, and he didn’t want the young North Carolina product sullied by teammates that Russell thought to be, in Russell’s words, “losers.”
Russell asked Smith to sit at the front of the team’s plane during one road trip, away from the “losers,” so as to shield his rookie from undue influence. “And if you don’t believe me,” Smith recalled Russell telling him, “come by my office tomorrow and watch me not be able to trade them.”
The new Kings front office will face just as tough a task, with the relative pittance of their players’ rookie contracts making things even more frustrating as the team attempts to figure out what should stick, and what should scram. Is Kenny the guy to entrust with the long-awaited restart in Sacramento?
We’re not sure, but we know he’s not lacking in confidence.
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