Smith feels her team is favored to win it all once again.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Q. After rolling through the regular season unscathed, how does this season
compared to last year at this time?
Smith: "I think that we just have an understanding and that excitement is back. We were inconsistent at times during the regular season last year but figured out what we needed to do every night, both on an individual basis as well as collectively as a team. Since we've lost Cheeky (Cheryl Ford) for most of the season, we know and understand that we all have to pick it up a notch or two and do little things. I think our team has had an edge all season long. We understand what it takes to win at this level and know that we have to go out every night and take it. Everyone's going to give us their best shot but everyone understands that."
Q. How important has your bench been this season?
Smith: "Shoot, Plenette Pierson was a major part of why we won last year and she has been as consistent as anyone on our team this year as well. Katie Feenstra has been in and out of the starting lineup which has prepared to play a number of roles and play with anyone and both she and Kara Braxton give us big minutes. It's kind of like we are doing things more by committee this year in a way. Elaine Powell, Pee Wee Johnson and Ivory Latta have come in in different situations and all done nice jobs for us. So I think that everyone, at moments during the game, they give us what we need. Energy, scoring, rebounding or whatever it may be."
Q. How would you evaluate where this team is now heading into a new season
with all of the slates wiped clean? Areas to sure up?
Smith: "We are always working on improving aspects of our game. I think the biggest things are all mental. The most important thing we need to grasp is the mental game plan. We have to understand how we want to attack and how we want to guard people. Our transition defense can and will be a focal point. Also our rebounding. Boxing out teams. We just have to outwork the opponent, no matter who it is. It's about bringing the maximum effort. Sometimes a team will come at us and outwork us, and cannot have that happen during the Playoffs."
Q. I know you weren't here for the first title, but does the team talk about
what it would mean to win a third championship, something no one else has done
but the Comets?
Smith: "We don't talk legacy. I haven't. Though I'm still somewhat new to Detroit, but in all honesty, that part of things never comes up. It's about this year and this year only. Yeah, we won it last year and know that teams are gunning for us, but the bottom line is that we want it this year. We're in the moment."
Q. So what do you talk about?
Smith: "We talked about getting home court advantage and now that we have it, what that means. We talked about fine-tuning some things during the last week of the season. Now that Playoffs have rolled around, it's exciting. Now we're playing for the Big Deal. It's about this year, this team, this title. And what we need to do to put ourselves in position to win it again."
Q. And what are those things?
Smith: "Winning at home will take care of everything. Obviously if we win every home game, we win the title. Another thing is individual aspects of our defense. We have to play good defense every night. There are no nights off anymore. That means understanding what the other team wants to do and how to limit the effectiveness of their go-to players. That includes transition defense and rebounding. On offense, it's all about not turning the ball over. We'll make plays, but we need to be consistent in not giving up the ball senselessly. We cannot give the other team more opportunities to score."
Q. Now that you have been here for two full seasons, how would you describe
your relationship with Coach Laimbeer?
Smith: "He's a good guy. You know what? We have our moments, but he knows his stuff, he's a straight shooter, he wants us to succeed, he gives us every opportunity to succeed and he lets us do our jobs."
Q. What about his sideline bravado?
Smith: "I think that's just him being him. The bottom line is that he wants to win everythine he does. He is a competitor and gets caught up in the moment. But he is into it. He knows we're not perfect, but he wants us to perform to the level we're capable of performing at. He wants to win, though. That's him, but it's fun because while he demands a lot of us, we demand a lot from ourselves. We understand him, though that doesn't mean it doesn't get on our nerves sometimes. I think we also get on his, so it evens out (Laughs).
Q. So who do you see emerging from each conference to go to the Finals?
Smith: I would honestly pick us to come out of the East, but I think Washington will be a battle. I see that as a tough series and no one is going down easy. I have confidence that we'll be ready to play. In the West, I honestly think it will be Phoenix. They are rolling, feeling goog and have a good combination of veterans and people that make plays. I don't think any other team can keep up with them. They've been on fire this last half of the season. Though I will give Sacramento its due. They've been there and done it before and it's theirs until someone takes it away from them."
Q. And you'll be back next season no matter what?
Smith: "Of course, why do you ask? Don't listen to rumors. I'll be around at least a couple of more years. I'm not old yet. 33 is not old. I keep myself in shape. Plus I'm still having too much fun."