“This is a sideshow and it’s causing a distraction from the bigger issues that are in front of the league today. No one seems to be talking about that.”
Australian sports fans on Friday woke to an ESPN report which claimed Ball – who played 12 games for the Hawks this season before returning to the US to prepare for the upcoming NBA draft – had purchased the Hawks.
The NBL refuted Ball’s agent’s comments, which seemed to indicate the deal had been signed, sealed and delivered.
And while Smith described the story as “speculative at best”, he also queried how Ball and his management were going to run the team from the other side of the world while simultaneously chasing his NBA dream.
“I kind of sit back in amazement and think wow, LaMelo Ball and these people must be incredibly clever if they can run the Illawarra Hawks and make a success of it while they’re in Los Angeles and while LaMelo is chasing an NBA career,” Smith said.
“I welcome it. I think it’s an amazing experiment and I look forward to seeing the outcomes and look forward to building a strong and robust rivalry with Illawarra – as we always have had at the Sydney Kings.”
For those two reasons, Smith isn’t preparing to press flesh with Ball at the next NBL owners’ meeting.
“All I try to do – and I know [Melbourne United owner Craig Hutchison] tries to do this as well – is try to help other clubs get better. If this helps Illawarra get better, great. No issues from my side,” Smith said.