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Interview with the Pelicans’ Jason Smith

Greg Miles PHOTOGRAPH

Despite their height difference – he’s a massive 7 feet tall; she barely reaches his shoulders even in stilettos – Pelicans forward/center Jason Smith and his wife, Kristy, seem like typical newlyweds. On an August afternoon at their condo in the Cotton Mill lofts, the couple, who got married in July, shares their disappointment with a recently purchased as-seen-on-TV product and Kristy gently chides Jason for getting to-go food from Cochon Butcher and making the condo reek of onions. The condo is now sweetly fragranced by a burning candle.

It is a big year for Smith: Besides getting married, this month he starts his fourth season with a team that just underwent a highly publicized rebranding. The team’s longest tenured player talks video games, favorite spots in the Warehouse District and how it’ll feel to step out this season in Pelicans gear.

Since you like video games, which ones are your favorites? “Battlefield 3,” “Call of Duty” … I like first-person shooter games. Everyone likes to ask me if I like to play [the NBA video games]. Once they put you in a game and you realize you’re not as good as Lebron or M.J., you say, “Hmm, I’m not going to play this game anymore.”

Does Kristy share your love for video games? I’ve tried to get Kristy to play video games with me but she just won’t budge. I’ve tried stuff as easy as racing games – no. I’ve tried “Guitar Hero” – no. I’ve tried so many things. I even tried “Tetris” one time – “no, I’m just not in the mood.”

What are your favorite things about living in the Warehouse District? Easy accessibility to restaurants. It’s close enough to the action of Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, this and that, to where you’re on the edge of it but you’re not actually in it. It’s easy access to the highway and the new practice facility. [The condo’s] got a great view of the New Orleans skyline. It’s just a nice place.

Favorite spots in the neighborhood? We’ve gone to Pêche a few times – it’s really, really good. Emeril’s is one of our go-to spots. Rock-n-Sake is sushi place we go to all the time. On the other side of the highway we go to Sushi Brothers and Superior Grill. It just depends on if we want to walk to a restaurant or drive. In walking distance, we have our choice of fine dining, our choice of bar food, we have our choice of everything.

A lot of athletes are on Twitter. Are you into it?  I’m a newbie to Twitter. I joined last year, kind of mid-season, to see what the buzz was all about. I don’t have any amazing number of followers but it’s cool when you post something – “had a great workout today” – and people who are following you, the kids who do your camps, or the adults who are following you, say “keep up the good work.” It’s good in that respect, but I imagine there’s a lot of negative feedback from Twitter.

What do you like most about living in New Orleans? Nice people, great food, the weather is awesome – some people say it’s too hot, but wait until you go to a cold environment and you learn to love the warm climate. Being an athlete, your body is a little friendlier to you when you’re in a warmer environment. The people here are so nice and so supportive of the Saints, of the Pelicans, the Zephyrs – everything that goes on in this city, they have a good time with it. It’s unlike any city in the nation.

Will it feel different wearing Pelicans gear this season? Yeah, I think it’ll kind of sink in [at the beginning of the season]. We did the jersey unveil, and seeing the new practice facility was like “Hmm, I think our name just changed.” But we’ve had that since the end of the season. We’ve had it for so long, but as soon as we get in the new arena and the new practice facility and have new jerseys and everything, it’s going to be a change for the better I think.

What do you like most about your position? I like just going out there and being the energy person – going out there and contributing to the team as best I can and giving whatever I can to help the team win. I trust coach Williams to put us in the right spots. He’s going to give us a good chance to win a lot of games. I know this year is a very important year for all of us, and I think we have the potential to get back to the playoffs.

As the longest tenured player of the team, does that make you the role model or wise one? It kind of makes you nervous as professional athlete because if you’re the last person there, it’s kind of like “Well, who else is going to be on the chopping block?” But at the same time, the coach and the front office know you give it your all, all the time – I know everyone knows that about me personally. I actually enjoy it. It gives me the confidence to know I’m doing something right if I’m still around. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing, work hard, stay positive, no matter what happens.

True confession: I love the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups but not the normal ones, the big cups. They’re not really that popular ... but I really like those.


At a Glance

Age: 27  Profession: Forward/center, New Orleans Pelicans Born/raised: Kersey, Colo. Resides: The Warehouse District Family: Wife, Kristy; brothers Aron and Craig; sister Joyce; parents Jack and Roberta Education: Colorado State, Platte Valley High School Favorite movie: Twister Favorite TV show: “The Big Bang Theory” Favorite restaurant: Emeril’s Favorite food: Mexican Favorite band: Linkin Park Favorite hobby: Video games Favorite vacation spot: “I went to Antigua on my honeymoon. That was awesome. That would be up there on the top of my list.”

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