When the Clippers traded guard Derek Smith to the Sacramento Kings last August, club officials said that Smith might not be fully recovered from the knee injury and mononucleosis that caused him to miss most of last season.
But Smith didn't look like damaged goods in an exhibition game against the Clippers Monday night at Cal State Fullerton.
He opened the game with a dunk and went on to score a game-high 19 points in 24 minutes as the Kings routed the Clippers, 112-91, before 1,013 fans at Titan Gym.
"This was the best I've played so far in the exhibition season," Smith said. "They (the Clippers) chose to make the statement that I wasn't healthy, but I don't think they felt that way. They just didn't want to commit to me financially.
"I wanted to make a statement that I'm back. It's always going to be a delight playing against them. I don't have anything against any of the guys on the team or the coaches. But I had something to prove when I saw (Clipper president Alan) Rothenberg sitting in the stands. Once I saw I was going to get a dunk, I wanted to stick it in with authority."
Matched against Marques Johnson, Smith scored 11 points in the first quarter and had a total of 17 points in 20 minutes in the first half. He played just 4 minutes in the second half and wound up making 7 of 11 shots from the floor and 5 of 10 free throws. He also had 3 rebounds and 3 steals.
"It looked like Derek has picked up where he left off before he got injured last season," Johnson said. "He looked real strong."
The Clippers open the regular season against Smith and the Kings on Oct. 31 in Sacramento.
"He looked awesome," Clipper Coach Don Chaney said of Smith, who was the Clippers' leading scorer the last two seasons. "He's going to have a great season, no doubt about that."
Swingman Junior Bridgeman, acquired by the Kings in the Smith deal along with Franklin Edwards, had 12 points in 11 minutes in the second half. He made 6 of 8 shots. Edwards didn't play because of a heel injury.
Guard Larry Drew, who went from the Kings to the Clippers in the trade, had 10 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist. Mike Woodson, who was also part of the deal, scored 3 points.
Clipper forward/guard Marques Johnson didn't play in he second half because of back spasms. Johnson and forward Kurt Nimphius (ankle injury) won't make the trip to Fresno for the Clippers' exhibition game against the Golden State Warriors tonight. . . . The Clippers are 0-4 in exhibition play with two games left. The Kings are 3-2. . . . Michael Cage led the Clippers with 17 points, including 15 in the second half. . . . Clipper center Benoit Benjamin had 16 points, 13 rebounds and 6 blocked shots in 29 minutes. . . . Sacramento swingman Junior Bridgeman said it was the first time he has played against Johnson since March 29, 1975 in the NCAA final when UCLA beat Louisville. Bridgeman and Johnson had played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Clippers. . . . Former UC Irvine star Johnny Rogers had 10 points for Sacramento. He was taken in the second round of the draft last June. Point guard Reggie Theus had 11 assists and 8 points.