I first spoke to Greg Smith in Las Vegas during the Summer League, just a few days after he had officially joined the Mavericks. I was impressed at how genuinely excited he seemed for this opportunity.
At practice this week, I had the chance to catch him one-on-one for another interview about his career so far. It'd been a few months, but he remembered me from then. Smith, with a rapid-fire pace to his answers that slowed what could have been a five- or six-minute interview into just three and a half, truly seemed happy with his coming season with Dallas.
You told me you have some family here in Dallas last time we talked. How are you liking it so far?
Loving it. Great fans, great city. It's nice, man. Real chill. I can't complain, because everyone's showed me love and embraced me to the team.
Let's take it back a little ways. You grew up in Fresno, California, played your high school ball, then you went to Fresno State. Did you want to stay in the area? Did you have an opportunity to leave?
I was committed to Arizona my junior year, and [then head coach] Lute Olson retired. That's when I rethought where I was going to go, and came to the conclusion that staying home would be the best. My girlfriend was pregnant with my daughter, so I wanted to be there for that. It all worked out for the best.
You declared for the draft after your sophomore year. Did you think you were going to get drafted then?
Yeah, I had a feeling I would have with my performance then. I knew I had an up-and-down year but I gave it my all and I felt like, for the draft, I was going to go back out and do my best in the workouts.
Had you been talking to teams before and it just didn't work out?
Yeah, a lot of teams showed interest but a lot of teams wanted to see me work, wanted to see what I could give them or not. It worked out for the best. I'm glad I went through this whole process.
You ended up with Houston and went down to [Houston's D-League team], the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. How was that experience, especially with their system -- what did you think of that?
Great, great, great experience. Run and gun. Learned how to play in spots in the post, playing with guards who could drive and kick and could finish. I think that helped me a lot to grow as a player and a person, and I appreciate the Rockets as a team and an organization for helping me grow as a person.
That had to have been a ton of fun, playing in that system.
Oh yeah, I played with a ton of great players. I met a lot of friends on the Vipers. It was great playing with them, and I learned a lot. And now I come here, and I'm learning from Dirk, and Tyson Chandler, and Monta, even Jae Crowder. They're all teaching me new things.
Even Jae Crowder? What's he teaching you?
He's teaching me how to be a dog, go out there and fight every single possession and every single play and never give up. I love how every day, no matter he's hurt or not, he's going to give it his all. (ed. note: dawg might be a more appropriate spelling in this instance).
What are you learning from the other big men?
I'm learning a lot. I'm learning energy. You've got to have the same energy for a whole practice, and in games.
What's the next step for you in your career right now?
My next step is to establish myself as a rotation big in this league, go out there and show them I can compete, and whatever [is happening] in a game, be a great teammate. I see myself being a leader if I continue to work hard and become a better professional.
I see a lot of similarities between you and Brandan Wright. Am I crazy here?
Yeah, I mean, he's a little more explosive than me, a little longer, but there's a lot same there. We both play above the rim, we both play a little physical. He blocks shots, I block shots. When [we're] in a game, it's going to be hard for teams to get down there and get rebounds and score down low.
Thanks Greg, and best of luck this season!