Nick Van Exel had a long, successful career in the NBA and recently recalled a ‘welcome to the league’ moment involving the Houston Rockets’ Kenny Smith.
When you play in the NBA, there are going to be nights where someone has your number — the talent level in the league is just that high. For former NBA All-Star Nick Van Exel, one of those guys was the Houston Rockets‘ own Kenny Smith.
Smith spent six seasons in H-Town, winning two NBA championships along the way. Halfway through his time with the Rockets, Smith faced off against a 22-year-old rookie named Nick Van Exel, who was already starting despite being drafted 37th overall.
As a guest on Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles, Van Exel remembered exactly how that first encounter went.
“I remember two guys — I don’t if they were the first ones, but I remember the a**whooping they gave me,” said Van Exel. “One was Kenny Smith. He gave me a 40-ball when I was in L.A.”
Inside the Numbers of that Houston Rockets game
In looking at Kenny Smith’s statistics in that December 1993 game, it’s easy to see why Van Exel still hasn’t forgotten about it. In that showdown, Smith shot a staggering 16-of-24 from the field (66.7 percent) and 3-for-6 from downtown to end the night with 41 points. The Jet also tallied six assists, four rebounds, and three steals in the game.
While he did admit to being worked by Smith, he did provide some explanations as to why he might’ve allowed that to happen. “I had the flu — it was the flu game for me, but it wasn’t a Jordan flu game,” said Van Exel.
It definitely was far from Jordan’s flu game, as Nick finished with just 10 points while allowing Smith to go off for a career-high that night. He still gave one more reason for getting busted that may have held more weight, however.
“We were double-teaming the big fella [Hakeem Olajuwon], but it was 40, and I had to be the one to take that.”
In the end, the Houston Rockets won the game 118-93 to improve to 23-3 on the season and eventually went on to with their first NBA title.