Media Day Interview: Smush Parker
It's safe to say no Laker experienced a more whirlwind '05-'06 than Smush Parker. The Artist Formerly Known As William Henry went from "training camp punchline with the funny name" to "surprise starter" to "crowd favorite" to "overmatched playoff point guard" to "game four hero" to "shell of himself after a complete physical and emotional postseason collapse."
That's a pretty bloated October-May, but in many ways, Smush finished the season exactly like he started: As a player with some promise and a lot to work on. And it's important that he's done just that, given the strong possibility he'll remain a starter, at least for a while. In talking with Smush (rocking the headband, as always), he seems to understand that the onus lies with him to take the next step. Here's what he had to say.
On what the team will do differently this season to make the extra step:
It's not so much we're gonna change what we did last year. Last year was a learning experience for us as a ball club. It was Phil Jackson's first year back. It was my first year (in the system). Kwame's first year. A lot of guys, (their) first year playing in the triangle offense. So it was a young ball club, new offense and we needed a season like that to build up to what's to come. This season is going to be a fun, exciting year for us. We expect great things. We're a more talented ball club, more experienced ball club than last year. We plan on having a good season this year.
On the difference between playing in Cleveland versus L.A., with all the "Showtime" lore and Hollywood types watching:
It's a big difference, being a Laker. It's funny, being in Hollywood, it's where all the actors and actresses make their movies, all the producers. I stepped back last season and I'm like, "I'm entertaining the entertainers. People that entertain the world, I'm entertaining them." They're here every night watching us play. It's a fun place to be in.
AK: Does that add more pressure? Make it more fun? Surreal?
SP: It just makes it surreal. It makes it that much more fun. Playing in Cleveland was a great experience for me, but nothing beats playing in L.A.
AK: You mentioned last season being a learning experience. How much did you personally take away from it, given that it was the most minutes you'd ever played, most amount of starts, most responsibility you'd ever had?
SP: You know, I can't put my finger on exactly what I learned. It's just experience, you know? It was my first year I actually got a chance to play. I played for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2002-2003, but I didn't play that much. I didn't play in Detroit much. I didn't play in Phoenix much. Last year, I actually got a chance to get my feet wet a little bit. Get out there and play basketball in a backcourt with one of the best players in the NBA right now, Kobe Bryant. Lamar Odom was great. Kwame Brown. Chris Mihm. All those guys. I learned a lot. I can't just put my finger on it, like I said, but I've grown as a player. It's gonna be a fun season for me and the Lakers.
AK: What specifically did you work on during the offseason?
SP: As far as individually, my mid-range game. But what I really needed to work on was being a better floor general to my teammates. Being a better teammate. What's expected of me this season is getting us into the triangle offense better. Put pressure on the other team's point guards as far as defensively. I'm gonna play better defense this year. Put a lot more hustle and excitement and flair into this year.
AK: When you say, "be a better teammate," what do you specifically mean by that?
SP: You know, just being a better point guard. I'm a point guard on a team, I have to be the coach out there on the floor. And I just gotta lead my team the best way I know how to, to get the W.
AK: The playoffs obviously didn't end well, both for the team and yourself personally. After a little time and allowing the smoke to clear, what do you take away from that experience, in terms of what you bring to this season?
SP: Moments like last season, playoffs, just playing; That kind of experience, you can't teach. Those are life experiences that you just learn from and they're (stuck) there with you, no matter what. When those siutuations come up, those pressure situations come up, you (now) have a year's experience under your belt. Now you can deal with certain situations better.
AK: I take it from looking at you that it's gonna be another "headband" year?
SP: (smiles) Oh, yeah. Definitely a headband year and I'm gonna do less taking it off.
AK: (laughs) Really? Was it just too much "business" sometimes, taking it on and off?
SP: Actually, I will take it off if I feel the need to. But it won't be as dramatic as it was last year.
AK: A little more under the radar?