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Kenny Smith's view: It's all about Queens now

The TV analyst and former NBA player notes the New York borough has produced few NBA champions, but it's sure to be represented this year, by Lakers' Lamar Odom or Orlando's Rafer Alston.

June 13, 2009|Kenny Smith

Television analyst and former NBA player Kenny Smith is now working for NBA TV during the NBA Finals and serving as a guest columnist for the Los Angeles Times and Orlando Sentinel.

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I used to say I was the only guy in Queens with a championship ring. In the modern-day era, I was the only guy with a ring. Speedy Claxton then had one for being on the Spurs and now Lamar Odom, with the Lakers, could be next . . . or the Magic's Rafer Alston.

The funny thing is both Rafer and Lamar used to play on the same AAU basketball team that I sponsored when they were 11 years old. I'll tell you the other two: Speedy Claxton and Ron Artest. These were 11-year-old kids.

That kind of talent pool just doesn't happen with that many kids that young, that good.

Ron? Ron was very consistent. His behavior is very consistent. I used to say that some of the things he got praised for were going to be detrimental down the road. And the coaches back then didn't understand what I meant. At the time, I was a young NBA player and on my sponsored team, my older brother Vincent coached.

You could praise Ron's intensity to a point. The coaches would say, "Ron's the only one who cares if we lose or win." The guys should care. There's a fine line.

They all used to see me and Kenny Anderson, the former New Jersey Nets point guard, working out in the gym and I knew what they were thinking: "We're next."

But Lamar grew so quickly. In one year, he grew six, seven inches. He went from being a point guard to being a big guy.

That's why he has all those ball-handling skills. He did the same drills Kenny Anderson did. He plays like a 6-10 Kenny Anderson. They get to the rim the same way.

I don't think Lamar back then ate as much candy as he does now.

I remember seeing Lamar coming back the next summer and I didn't know it was the same guy because he had grown so much. I was sitting there watching the first quarter of the game and my brother was like, "That's Lamar." He had grown so quickly that I didn't recognize him.

We called Rafer "Penny Loafers." He wasn't yet "Skip to My Lou."

He got that nickname when I brought the team to Houston and my brother was coaching them. I said, "All right, you have to wear shoes to dinner." And Rafer didn't bring any shoes, he only brought sneakers. I sent him to the store because we were going to a nice restaurant. "You've gotta wear shoes." He got penny loafers and he put the penny in there. It was pretty funny.

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