BEIJING — Two years ago, when J.R. Smith and the Denver Nuggets came to Beijing to participate in the NBA China Games, he did not know he would spend part of his career in this ancient and mysterious country.
But now, in October 2011, he has come to China and become a member of the Zhejiang Chouzhou team. “The lockout upsets me, basketball is my job, my love and my life. The lockout robbed it all. But because of the lockout, I can come to China to get through what many of my friends cannot get through. ”
Smith’s initial experience in China was not that good. The first problem was the time difference. On his first day in China, Smith woke up at 2 a.m. and found himself in such a strange environment, he didn’t know what to do.
He wanted to send a Twitter update, but encountered problems because Twitter is blocked in China. At last, he found a way to tweet through his Blackberry: “Dear China, the fact that u won’t let me work my Skype on my desktop or twitter is really pissing me off.” Then another one: “Not even YouTube wow this is ass!”
As the biggest name in team history, Smith also gets the best treatment. The team has hired a cook and two translators especially for him. For his relocation, Smith brought about 20 pieces of luggage, and the club arranged a room especially for those bags.
Josh Boone, who played for the New Jersey Nets for four seasons, is another American player on the Chouzhou team. Boone said of Smith, “He will prove to all the people in China what he is made of. I know J.R.’s ability. He will be the greatest player in this league.”
Smith may agree with Josh Boone, although his team only ranked fifth in the CBA last season, but he hopes he can be the added piece that would earn Chouzhou a championship. “I know many who want to stop me, but I will let them know who I am,” Smith said with smile.
In his seven NBA seasons, Smith was a prolific shooter. On April 13, 2009, Smith scored a career-high 45 points on 13-of-22 shooting as part of a 118-98 home win over the Sacramento Kings. He made a franchise-record 11 three-pointers during the game, which was one shy of tying the NBA record. In many Chinese people’s opinion, Smith will break the CBA’s single game record for most points (71 points by Andre Emmett).
But this is not what he expects.
“I just care about my team, I just care about winning and letting my fans enjoy. I don’t know how many points I will score, that’s not my goal. But I want to get triple-doubles, not only for one game, but for every game, every night.”
Smith never had a triple-double in the NBA, where he was not considered a willing passer. But in China, he has expressed a desire to help his team in various ways, not only to score, but in rebounding, assists, and inspiring his teammates to get better.
He will face several former teammates in the coming season, such as Wilson Chandler, who is playing for another team in Zhejiang province, and Kenyon Martin, the new addition of Xinjiang.
What will he say to Chandler and Martin in a CBA game? “I will tell them, my man, get ready to lose this game.”
Smith will wear No. 23 in honor of his childhood hero, Michael Jordan.
Guan Weijia is a columnist for Titan Sports, The Beijing News and qq.com. His columns for SheridanHoops.com appear every Wednesday.