Jason Smith: All the Way Back
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

After a stellar rookie season with Philadelphia in 2007-08, Jason Smith appeared well on his way to becoming a key component of the future for the rapidly-improving, young and talented 76ers. Then fate intervened. During a workout in August 2008, the 7-foot, 240-pounder torn the ACL in his left knee, effectively ending his 2008-09 season before it began.

By the time Smith returned to the court in 2009-10 following his injury rehabilitation, Philadelphia had used a first-round pick on promising frontcourt player Marreese Speights, one factor that led to a decline in playing time for Smith. The Colorado State product experienced a drop in his statistics virtually across the board, going from 76 games as a rookie to 56 in 2009-10. In late September, the 76ers elected to trade Smith and Willie Green to the Hornets.

Its just something that happens, Smith said of the misfortune of his knee injury and impact it had on his career. It was a fluke, freak accident that you have no control over. You just have to make the best out of the situation. I had high expectations based on my play in summer league that year. Then my knee blew out.

Athletic trainers often say it takes at least a full year for an athlete to recover from a severe knee injury. Smith agrees, saying that he is excited to be back to 100 percent and a new member of the Hornets.

The first year you come back, its hard to be the player that you were, because youve sat out so long, the 24-year-old said. I think now, after knowing that the knee is fine, its not really a physical thing; its more mental.

As a rookie, Smith averaged 4.5 points, 3.0 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game, displaying a broad skill set that included a somewhat rare combination of length, athleticism and shooting range (hes made 14 three-pointers in his NBA career). Hes eager to show his new team some of those skills.

I think I have lots and lots of potential, he said. I have to play hard, work hard, practice hard and let the other stuff take care of itself. But Ive got the athletic ability and the leaping back. I feel like Ive got a lot of things going for me.

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