While Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has already proclaimed the Miami Heat to be "the favorites" in the Eastern Conference next season, his boss isn't so sure. And in saying so today, he took a shot at LeBron James, who announced his decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in order to in fellow All-Stars and Olympic medalists Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
In an informal meeting with the media at RDV SportsPlex today, Smith was asked if he felt like the balance of power had shifted from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference. "I've heard that a few times and I'm trying to see the power shifting," he said, but he pointed out that the L.A. Lakers are "still the best team in our league."
To prove his point, he asked if Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was retiring. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel said, "No, he's going to the Heat," which elicited laughter among the assembled media.
But Smith topped him in his response. "Well, he's already proved he can win [a championship] on his own!" he said. "Oops! My bad." That remark speaks to the popular idea circulating throughout the basketball world that James hurt his legacy, as even if he wins multiple titles with the Heat, he will have done so with two other superstars at his side.
Later, a television reporter asked if the situation in Miami would prompt him to make any "drastic" moves. "I'm trying to bring back Patrick [Ewing] and Michael [Jordan]," he said, his words dripping with sarcasm. He added an emphatic "no," and offered no further response to that question.
Don't take that response to mean that Smith is finished making moves, however. I interpreted it to mean that any move he makes the rest of the summer is designed to improve the team, period, and not as a response to the Heat's power play.