Magic Sign Jason Smith
By John Denton
July 14, 2015
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic got an up-close-and-personal look at what Jason Smith could do with his sweet shooting stroke last season. So when the team needed another big man for depth along the frontline, they already had a solid scouting report on the versatile power forward’s abilities.
Smith, who had four double-digit scoring games and a season-best 25-point effort against Orlando last season, signed with the Magic on Tuesday. The 7-foot, 240-pound Smith can play both power forward and center and he could make a push to be the Magic’s starter on the frontline alongside center Nikola Vucevic.
``Didn’t hurt,’’ Smith said of his strong showings against the Magic last season. ``This is a great arena to play in and the fans here are awesome and they support you no matter what. It’s a great community and I look forward to getting next year started off with a bang.’’
The Magic traded reserve center Kyle O’Quinn to the Knicks earlier this month when New York signed the restricted free agent to a lucrative offer sheet. Smith will compete with Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Dewayne Dedmon and Andrew Nicholson for minutes at the power forward position. Smith said knowing that he will be in a position to fight for a starting job made Orlando even more appealing to him.
``I’d lie if I said, `no,’ but yes,’’ Smith said when asked if the opportunity to fight for a starting job factored into his decision. ``I think we have a great group of bigs with Nik, Channing Frye and Dewayne Dedmon. It’s a good group of guys who are going to go out and compete for that spot.’’
Smith is close friends with former Magic power forward Ryan Anderson from their playing days together in New Orleans. Anderson highly recommended the Magic and Orlando to Smith when he was trying to decide where to sign.
``As soon as he heard wind that I was going to Orlando, (Anderson) was like, `You’re going to love the city and the people. It’s amazing, the organization is top notch and the facilities are nice,’’’ Smith said of the conversation. ``I said, `Well, that’s all nice, but how does that equate to some wins and losses? Do they have a good team?’ He told me that (the Magic) have a lot of good players. Me looking at the team, I think we have a lot of potential and possibilities to do great things this year.’’
The 29-year-old Smith is a veteran of seven NBA seasons, having played for Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York. He averaged 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 0.5 blocks while shooting 43.4 percent in 82 games with the Knicks last season.
The former Colorado State standout has averaged at least 8.0 points per game each of the past four years, including a career-best 9.9 points per game in 2011-12 while playing in New Orleans.
Smith’s ability to shoot the ball from distance from both the power forward and center positions should create more drive-and-kick opportunities for guards Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton and more space inside for Vucevic. Smith has made 30 3-pointers in his career with 15 of them coming last season while playing for the Knicks. He is hopeful that he can extend his mid-range shooting stroke to the 3-point line to make himself an even more dangerous scoring option for the Magic.
``It stretches the defense out and with Channing out there and myself out there, it will provide more spacing for Elfrid and Vic to get into the paint and get easy layups,’’ Smith said. ``I’m working on (the 3-point shot). I worked on it a lot last year. I’ve always been a very capable shooter, but I’ve never really taken that chance (with 3-point shots). But I think it’s something that I will work on a lot this summer and hopefully it’s something you will see more of this year.’’
Smith’s scoring average was boosted by the way he shot the ball and scored against the Magic last season. On Feb. 11 at the Amway Center, Smith poured in 25 points by making 10 of 16 shots. That night, Smith opened the game by scoring at will and pumping in 21 of his 25 points in the first half.
``I was on fire,’’ Smith said with a laugh. ``That was a great game for me at least. Twenty-one points at the half, but I kind of cooled off a little bit in the second half. (Former interim) coach (James) Borrego, the coach at the time, was an old coach of mine down in New Orleans and he changed up the strategy against me and said, `Don’t let him shoot it anymore!’ It was fun game for me and a great game.’’
In four games against the Magic last season, Smith averaged 16.8 points while making 28 of 54 shots (51.8 percent). In the two games at the Amway Center – Smith’s new home floor – the power forward hit 15 of 24 shots (62.5 percent).