Hornets.com 1-on-1: Jason Smith

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

With training camp opening next week, the New Orleans Hornets have eight new members on their current 14-player roster. The club’s personnel turnover has been so significant, in fact, that Jason Smith is now the longest-tenured Hornet – even though he’s only been with New Orleans since a Sept. 23, 2010 trade. 

Among the new Hornets players who are NBA veterans – Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez, Roger Mason and Hakim Warrick – three of the four have played the bulk of their NBA minutes at either power forward or center. As a result, Smith has often been matched up individually on the hardwood against Anderson, Lopez or Warrick (Mason is a shooting guard).

So who better to help introduce some of New Orleans’ unfamiliar faces than the 7-foot Smith? Smith sat down with Hornets.com this week to provide more basketball background on some of his new teammates, as well as his thoughts on the imminent 2012-13 NBA season.

Hornets.com: Several of the players the Hornets acquired this summer are guys you’ve often had to defend, so we wanted to get your perspective on the team’s new frontcourt players. From that standpoint, what is your “scouting report” on Ryan Anderson?

Smith: We were sad to see Gustavo Ayon go, but we got a terrific player from Orlando in Ryan Anderson. He’s an outstanding three-point shooter. He can play a lot bigger than what his height shows. He’s a good presence down low and is going to be a big part of our offense. I think he’s going to flourish in New Orleans.

Hornets.com: Another guy I’m sure you’ve dealt with a lot, especially since you’ve been in the Western Conference with New Orleans, is Robin Lopez. What is your impression of him on the floor?

Smith: He’s a big, big body. He’s a very hard worker. He’s a very underrated low-post player. I think with our coaching staff he’s going to get a tremendous post game going. He’s going to be a very integral part of our system, and I think he’s going to be crucial player this year.

Hornets.com: Hakim Warrick?

Smith: Tremendous player, with a very long and athletic body. I think this is his eighth year in the NBA. He has a tremendous mid-range jumper and can provide a spark on defense.

Hornets.com: Although he’s a shooting guard, I’m sure Roger Mason has been mentioned in scouting reports you’ve seen when you played for Philadelphia and here with New Orleans. What’s your perspective on him?

Smith: Knockdown shooter. He is a sharpshooter. He’s a catch-and-shoot player. He loves the three ball and can give us a spark. He’s good on defense and will provide that veteran leadership as well.

Hornets.com: Hornets players have worked out together quite a bit this summer. What are your thoughts on Anthony Davis after having seen him up close during voluntary workouts? Is there anything people might be surprised to know about him?

Smith: I think for people who didn’t see him in college or during the Olympics, he has a tremendous upside. He’s an amazing defensive player who has a ton of potential on the offensive end. I think with our coaching staff he’ll develop that offensive skill. And even now, his basketball iQ is so incredible for how young he is. He’s going to be very good for us and he has a bright future here.

Hornets.com: Basketball people say it’s stunning to watch how much ground Davis can cover on the defensive end. Is that something you’ve already witnessed a lot of this summer?

Smith: Yes. He’s definitely a long body and very athletic. He uses his length to his advantage. You think you have him (beaten on offense), but watch out.

Hornets.com: Individually, what do you think you can improve the most this season?

Smith: To provide more of a defensive presence in the middle is a big emphasis for me. Also to work on my body and remain healthy. I want to be there if we need that big guy to help out – whether it be because someone is in foul trouble or for any reason – and to provide leadership for the young guys. I want to use my experience. I’m really the only guy on the team who has been around for the whole time that Monty Williams has been here in New Orleans. I want to give teammates a better idea of what Coach Williams expects from them.

Hornets.com: Many Hornets fans have asked this summer about how the starting lineup will look, as well as who will be in the rotation and what role each player will have. With so many new guys on the team, how are the players approaching training camp?

Smith: It’s tough to figure out who’s going to start this year. You just have to put that faith in Coach Williams to put the best group of five players out there to start the game. But obviously it’s not just important of which five start, but also the seven, eight or nine guys (who receive significant minutes). He’ll put that winning combination out there night in and night out. I’m not sure if it will be the same (starters) every night.

Hornets.com: You mean possibly based on the matchups each night and the opponent?

Smith: Yes. All of us will work hard in training camp and practice and games, day in and day out, to try to get the best possible outcome.