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Get to know Smush

November 8, 2005 | 12:15 pm

During the preseason, you couldn't find an NBA analyst, journalist or expert not making a variation Smush118_ip22vykn of same "Lakers starting point guard" joke, all of which ended with the punchline, "Smush Parker."

Look who's laughing now.

To say Smush has turned a few heads after three games would be a serious understatement. Granted, it's still early, and the question remains whether he can do this for 82 games. But what began as an under the radar free agency signing has turned into an electric roster addition. I figured fans don't know much about the journeyman PG- save 16 games last season with Phoenix and Detroit, he's been playing in Europe and the NBDL since 2003- so after Sunday's win against Denver, I talked a bit with the man of the hour. The conversation began with Smush discussing his decision to leave Fordham early in 2002.  He went undrafted, signing with the Cavs as a free agent. The rest, as they (and he) would say, is history in the making.

SP: I was thinking I was gonna come out. I wanted to test the waters, see what the competition was like. That was my first goal, to put my name in the draft. And I had a great camp. And my name was buzzing and teams were talking. I thought I had a chance to go first round and that's the way I was projected to go. Unfortunately... I didn't get drafted, but I have a do or die attitude. I knew that I belonged in the league. I knew I could play at this level. And I saw the competition and I thought I was better than the competition at that draft.

AK: Were there ever points where you were thinking, "Oh, man! Maybe I made the wrong decision and came out too early?"
SP: Oh, no. Never. Like I said, I went to camp thinking, "Okay, I'm just going to camp to test the waters and see what the level of competition to get to the NBA was like. If I need to go back to college play another year or two. And when I got there, I was playing well, and my name was circulating through NBA teams, the organizations, and I decided to keep my name in. I felt I had a pretty good chance of getting drafted.

AK: And during those periods, either in the NBDL or in Europe, how did you keep telling yourself, "I'm going to be back. This is going to happen."
SP: I understand that, you know, it was all about opportunity. There are so few opportunities here in the league... But I had my foot in the door. Teams knew about me. I was just being patient. I knew that with hard work and dedication I was gonna end up back in the NBA.

AK: Were the Lakers a team that you had ever fantasized about playing for as a kid?
SP: Well, growing up, I was a Chicago Bulls fan. Michael Jordan. And I didn't have cable growing up, I had regular TV, and they aired Chicago Bulls games over the TV. So I was always a Chicago Bulls/Michael Jordan fan growing up.

AK: So the Lakers were probably a team you fantasized about beating growing up.
SP: Yeah, pretty much.

AK: And now that you're here, what's it been like for you so far?
SP: Oh, it's been a great experience so far. It's a wonderful opportunity for me to come in and be a part of this organization. And I plan on taking full advantage of it. This team just has so much history. And I feel like I'm a part of history. I'm making history right now.

AK: What do you see specifically as your role, what they're asking you to bring to the team?
SP: Defense. Being able to get out there and chase the little point guards around. And just be a competitor. I'm just going to compete. Offensively and defensively. Take what the defense gives me on offense and play hard on defense.

AK: You've already become this instant sensation. People yelling "SSSMMUUUUSSHHH!" when you make a play. Were you expecting any of that?
SP: Oh, no. I was definitely not expecting that. It's wonderful that I'm getting it. It feel good. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when I hear the fans yell, "Smush!" The fans appreciate hard work and that's what I'm going to give them.

AK: You could probably run for mayor right now.
SP: (laughs) I don't think I have that big of a fan base.

AK: During the Suns game (on 11.3), Jack Nicholson helped you up a bit when you fell out of bounds. What was that like for you?
SP: Oh, man! Like I said, I'm a part of history right now. That's gonna go down in the record books as one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. There's a big picture in the newspaper, and I'm gonna frame it and be able to show my children, "Hey, look. Jack Nicholson helped me up off the court." He kind of patted me on the butt and said, "good job. Good Hustle."

AK: You know Jack Nicholson definitely knows who Smush Parker is.
SP: Oh, yeah. And I definitely know who he is. (Laughs)

AK: Can you talk a little bit about your off the court interests? Hobbies, etc.
SP:  Hobbies, I like to bowl. Excuse me. Let me rephrase that. I love to bowl. I actually went bowling last night. I have no idea where, some place in the Marina. I'm still learning the town.

AK: How'd you do?
SP: I just went out there to throw the ball at some pins. I wasn't really competing. That was my first time going bowling here.

AK: Anyone on the team go with you?
SP: No. I have to find some teammates to go with.

AK: It'd be pretty cool, when you get a strike, if people would yell, "Smmmmuuuussshhh!"
SP: (laughs) Definitely.

FYI - His nickname was orginally given to his dad by his mom, and then passed along to their son, William Henry Parker.