Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. talks being in the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster, what fans don't realise about trades, eating octopus, and jumping over J. Cole

  • Dennis Smith Jr. has had a whirlwind season, from being traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the New York Knicks to participating in the dunk contest weeks later.
  • Smith said he had fun in the dunk contest, which included him jumping over rapper J. Cole, despite not winning.
  • Smith said he’s adjusting well to New York, but said many fans don’t realise the logistical details that go into being traded to a new team.
  • Smith also discussed the famous story about eating octopus with Phil Jackson before the draft and when he realised Luka Doncic was the real deal.
  • Follow all of Business Insider’s NBA All-Star Weekend coverage here >

It’s been a whirlwind season for Dennis Smith Jr.

The 21-year-old, second-year guard was floated in trade rumours with the Dallas Mavericks, then eventually traded to the New York Knicks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster. After just two weeks with the Knicks, he headed down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to participate in the AT&T Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend.

While promoting Mountain Dew from Charlotte, Smith spoke to Business Insider about his dunk contest experience – which included jumping over J. Cole – the trade to the Knicks, eating octopus with Phil Jackson, Luka Doncic, and more.

Scott Davis: You’ve had a few hours now to reflect on the dunk contest. I’m curious what your feelings on it were. How did it go?

Dennis Smith Jr.: I had fun. I had fun. I think that’s the biggest thing. I enjoyed it. Put on a show for the fans. Just gave them a little contest to remember.

Davis: How long did it take you to convince J. Cole to let you dunk over him? Was he scared?

Smith: Nah, he wasn’t scared about that part. He was more so worried about throwing a lob. So that was the issue with him last year – he didn’t wanna throw the lob. But jumping over him, he had no worries about that.

Davis: Who would be your next choice for a famous person to jump over?

Smith: Spike Lee.

Davis: You might have a chance – he’s at Madison Square Garden pretty often.

Smith: I met him last night for the first time. I chopped it up with him for a little minute. I salute him. He’s a legend and things of that nature.

Davis: Do you have a strict diet to stay light and be able to jump like you do? Do you have any diet advice?

Smith: Eat Bojangles [laughs]. That’s what I grew up on, man. You know, I’m country. So, I really just eat. I eat whatever is good to me right now. I’m sure that will change as I get older, but I just work whatever I eat off.

Davis: I asked Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox this and he said he actually just has to eat a lot to keep weight on. Are you like that?

Smith: Nah, I put on weight easily. I put on weight easily. I think I get that from my mama.

Davis: There was a story from before the draft when you were interviewing with the Knicks, and-

Smith: And I ate some octopus with Phil Jackson [laughs].

Davis: Yes. Have you had it since?

Smith: Yeah, I actually like octopus, man. You know, when it was forced upon me, it was awkward. I didn’t think my taste buds were working no more at the time. But yeah, I like octopus now.

Davis: Now that you’re back in New York have you tried any other foods? Anything adventurous or crazy?

Smith: I haven’t. I haven’t really tried anything in New York, for real. I’ve been to the gym and the hotel. That’s it.

Davis: You’re two or three weeks removed from the trade now. What are your thoughts on adjusting to New York and the move? It must be like a whirlwind – you’re all over the place, from Dallas to New York to here.

Smith: Yeah, I mean, the weather is almost opposite. You go from Texas to New York. I’m adjusting pretty fine, though. The main thing is basketball, and I’m in a really good space with that. So, it’s been all good.

Davis: Has there been anyone with the team or in your life that have helped with the adjustment, moving to a new team, cross-country, all of that?

Smith: Yeah, I mean, it’s little things like getting my car shipped. My cousin’s helping me get my car shipped. My dad is gonna bring it up to New York. He wanted to drive around Fayetteville [North Carolina] for a little minute. I got a lot of clothes that I’m gonna move. I’ve been doing things like that, getting from Dallas to Fayetteville. So, it’s been, like everything else for me, it’s been a family process.

Davis: Are there logistical things involved in being traded that fans don’t understand? Like you were saying with your car?

Smith: Yeah. That. Dealing with the rent at this place and then having to get another one, and getting the rent started there. It’s a lot of things. The cost of living changes. Your paycheck changes – whenever you see a tax-free state and then you go into New York that’s probably one of the highest. There’s a lot of things that go into it that you don’t realise.

Davis: Everybody is curious about Luka Doncic, your former teammate on the Mavericks. When was the first time you realised, ‘Oh this kid is very good’?

Smith: Probably the first time we played. The first time we played was in practice. It wasn’t even a practice, it was in the summer time, just like pick-up. And we were on teams at the time, too, and it was just like, his ability to make reads on the fly and things like that. I knew he was pretty talented.

Davis: Were you aware of him beforehand? Had you seen video of him?

Smith: Yeah, I seen video of probably all the top-10 draft prospects last year. I watched all of them.

Davis: Going back to the Knicks, a big part of the conversation about the trade was how the Knicks now have cap space to try and hit it big in free agency. Is it distracting for you to try to play through that and not think, like, what if, or what could happen?

Smith: Nah, I mean, that ain’t got nothing to do with me. My job is to work as hard as I can and be the best me, and everything else will fall in line.

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