Keith Smart He was a second-round draft pick by the Warriors in 1988 and also was an assistant coach and head coach with the team.

Kings notes: Oakland remains a special place for Smart

Published: Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C

OAKLAND – Keith Smart's NBA playing career didn't last long, but that doesn't take away from the sentimental feeling of returning to where it began.

It's one reason the Kings' coach smiles whenever he is at Oracle Arena, as he was Wednesday when his team played the Warriors.

"I was drafted here as a young rookie in 1988," Smart said. "It's always fun to come here."

Smart was a second-round pick (41st overall) of the Warriors. He never played in a game for the Warriors, with his only two NBA games coming with the San Antonio Spurs in the 1988-89 season.

His most prominent time with the Warriors came as an assistant coach under Don Nelson. Smart's stint with the Warriors began in 2003 and lasted through the 2010-11 season, when he was head coach and led them to a 36-46 record.

That was a 10-game improvement, but the franchise's new owners hired Mark Jackson as coach before last season.

"From my time here, I was able to meet a lot of people and grow some friends that I will have for the rest of my days," Smart said. "I still live in the Bay Area. I always come back from time to time to meet some of those people that I've developed relationships with."

Smart was complimentary of the Warriors' top two players this season, All-Star forward David Lee and guard Stephen Curry.

Smart said Curry, who was second to the Kings' Tyreke Evans in Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, has grown "into a top NBA point guard."

"He can shoot it from long range, and he's a willing passer and a heady player," Smart said. "He makes for a very tough cover … . He's playing very well, and he's growing at the rate that everyone thought he would be."

Smart praised Lee's smart play, even though he's still "under the radar."

"I think he's one of those guys who is pushing really hard to get that first take of getting into the postseason this year," Smart said.

Not his focus – Jackson was asked if he had more interest in the Kings' possible relocation than the casual fan would.

While some coaches have given long answers as to why the Sacramento market matters, Jackson answered quickly.

"The casual fan probably has more than me," he said.

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