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Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith grateful to be in Bill Russell’s inner circle 11.04.13 at 1:37 pm ET
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The city of Boston and the Celtics honored Bill Russell this past Friday, unveiling a 6-foot, 10-inch, 600-pound bronze statue of the 11-time NBA champion. Though the man has more championship rings than fingers, the ceremony detailed Russell’€™s work beyond basketball. For those in Russell’€™s inner circle — including Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith — the discussion was focused on Russell’€™s impact on society.

‘€œMost of us are too young to have seen him play,’€ said Barkley. ‘€œBut for guys like myself who got a chance to be around him, you see what a remarkable person he is. We know him more a man than a player.’€

Barkley and Smith, who are teammates on TNT’€™s extraordinarily popular “Inside the NBA,” both consider themselves very fortunate to be friends with the legendary Russell.

‘€œHe don’€™t talk to many people,’€ said Barkley. ‘€œSo if you get on the list, it’€™s pretty cool.’€

Smith was drafted by the Kings in 1987 and played a half-season for Russell, who was in his final stint as a head coach.

‘€œI was his first-ever draft pick,’€ said Smith. ‘€œI was overwhelmed meeting him. I didn’€™t know what to say, I didn’€™t know whether to call him ‘€˜Coach Russell,’€™ ‘€˜Bill,’€™ or ‘€˜Mr. Russell,’€™ and then my assistant coach was Willis Reed. I was in heaven. He taught me what teamwork was all about, regardless of winning and losing.’€

Smith, who emceed the ceremony, did not concentrate on Russell’€™s blocked shots or rebounds. He looks at him as a whole man, one who inspired people around the world and broke racial barriers. Smith thinks of the man who served as his mentor.

Russell’€™s greatest strength, in Smith’€™s words, is ‘€œhis ability to take a basketball moment and relate it to a lifetime experience. Something that my teammates always thought was going to be a punishment for me — sitting next to coach Russell on the team bus — actually turned out to be the best moment of my life.’€

Barkley laughed when recalling the story of Russell making Smith sit next to him on one of the Kings’ long bus rides. ‘€œKenny said, ‘€˜Why’€™ve I got to sit beside you?’€™ And Bill said, ‘€˜Because that guy’€™s a loser, that guy’€™s a loser, that guy’€™s a loser, and I don’€™t want you sitting with them.’€™ ‘€

Said Smith: ‘€œI sat next to him, on a bus ride or a plane ride, four hours a day. And if I went to sleep, he’€™d nudge me and go, ‘€˜Sleep nights, young fella. Listen to what I’€™m saying.’€™ And I listened to all those stories. It’€™s a great feeling to know I was part of that. Not being Satch Sanders or Tommy Heinsohn or any other great players who played with him, I feel like I’€™m one of those.’€

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Kenny Smith: Why Rondo can’t be dared to shoot 05.06.09 at 12:04 am ET
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Rajon Rondo had a breakout performance in the first round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls. 19.4 points per game weren’t too shabby for a player once considered hampered by a jumpshot. As TNT analyst Kenny Smith explained on WEEI’s Dale & Holley show, he believes Rondo’s early struggles away from the basket have become an advantage for him.

Said Smith, “Well I always thought that when I was playing as a player, I thought that when you played against guys who you thought really couldn’t shoot from the outside and you backed up off of them, I thought that played to his advantage because then one, you gave him passing lanes, two you gave him the ability to take up the space and come at you and put you on your heels, and three how does a guy practice when he really doesn’t shoot the ball well by himself? They feed him the ball and no one’s there. So you’re actually feeding into the things he’s good at and then you make him a stronger player. And I think that teams at times have made him really, really good and then all of a sudden he starts to play good and he becomes great … I think now he’s gotten to a point where he understands how to do this and play at this level. But I really think a lot of times teams play into his hands because they give him shots that dare him to shoot and no one gets to this point in this league, especially at the point where Rondo is, and you can dare him to shoot and they’re not going to make it.’€

Rondo scored 14 points against the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Game 2 will be played on Wednesday night in Boston.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kenny Smith, Rajon Rondo,
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