Victor Jackson is a personal trainer who mostly works with people like lawyers, CEOs or doctors, but he does have two clients that are very different from the majority: J.R. Smith and his little brother Chris Smith. For the most part Jackson stays away from working with professional athletes, but he has made an exception for the Smiths, and he is a big part of what they have been able to do on the court recently. Jackson met Chris when they played together at Manhattan College from 2007-09 and they have maintained a close relationship ever since while J.R. was also brought into the fold.
J.R. Smith doesn't have the best reputation around the NBA due to his off-the-court issues and suspensions for silly things on the court like untying opponents' shoelaces. However, Jackson had nothing but great things to say about J.R. as a person, as well as his brother, and it is very easy to tell that their is a lot of love between Jackson and the Smiths.
J.R. Smith is currently starting for the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team many people think are the favorites to win the NBA Championship, while Chris Smith is currently looking for a place to play after a short stint in Europe.
Jackson recently spoke to Headlines & Global News in an exclusive interview about Chris' future, J.R.'s contract situation, his workouts with both brothers and more.
Let's start with Chris. I saw he signed a contract to play in Kosovo earlier this season but left after one month. Do you know the reason why he left?
They weren't giving him the money that they promised. At the end of the day we all love to play, but it's also business at the same time.
What's next for Chris? Does he have any NBA offers?
He is in Cleveland now working out, not with the Cavaliers, but he and J.R. have a passion for the game, and he's in a fortunate situation where he doesn't need a job desperately because his brother makes enough to take care of him. Granted he is putting the work in to make it. Chris has one of the best work ethics that I have seen in any basketball player in general. I'm talking Kyrie [Irving], LeBron [James], he's up there in that same category of work ethic. J.R. has zero work ethic. I wouldn't say zero, but compared to Chris there is no comparison, and that is why we are all pushing for Chris to make it because of his work ethic.
Can you talk about your offseason work with J.R. Smith?
J.R. is a freak athlete to say the least. His workouts are very short and compact, and granted during the offseason they are short because their season is so long. His workouts are mostly recovery and stretching, not much strength training with J.R. because that's not his game anymore. He is more of an endurance-based athlete, so we do a lot of shuttle runs. Our lifts will be in three-minute spurts. A minute of push-ups, a minute of pull-ups and a minute of planking, then rest for five minutes so his workouts during the offseason aren't very intense because that is when his body needs to rest.
How does that differ from Chris' workouts in the offseason?
Chris is an animal and he loves to lift, while J.R. hates to lift. Chris will take his time in the weight room and do a traditional lifting workout, and it's a sport-specific mentality, a lot of core and balancing work, not a lot of heavy lifting, but functional lifting.
In-season for J.R., do his workouts become even less strenuous?
Absolutely, they are big on recovery. They will play and he won't leave until about an hour after the game is over because we will do a lot of stretching, cold tub, hot tub, and if he gets banged up we will do electric stim or radiation. Something just to get his body back to tip-top shape. Because again him being a freak athlete, which people in the NBA are, they're just trying to maintain their level of fitness. People go to college to prepare for the real world, most NBA players do all their heavy lifting in college, and once they make the NBA they aren't lifting nearly the same. They are mostly maintaining the work that they put in in college.
This offseason there was an interesting situation in which J.R. turned down his option and almost had to settle for less money with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Did you have any involvement in this? What were your thoughts on the situation?
I had no involvement in it, but talking with him and knowing the situation, J.R. bet on himself. If he had to do it over again he would, because of the year that he had he was willing to take that chance, and it ultimately set him up for a bigger payday next year. He does plan on opting out again when the year is over. Kind of like how LeBron signed a two-year deal, LeBron is going to opt, so J.R. had the same thought process, he signed a two-year deal guaranteed with the second-year player option, he is not going to take his option and he will bet on himself again. Also the salary cap is going up tremendously, which is another reason he has no regrets.
J.R. has struggled a bit this season so far, what do you think the reason is for the early struggles?
It is just normal struggles. It was a long year last year, and if you look at most NBA teams that are successful and know about the longevity of the season, until the All-Star break they know these games really don't mean that much. The media hypes things up with story lines and this, that and the other thing, but for the players they're still trying to find their rhythm. We are past the quarter-way point in the season, not even at the midway break, they're first in the East, and they're just getting their entire roster back, so things are now starting to work. Now you will see them start to have more fun, but you and I, we look at numbers, these players they care about the wins and losses. Yeah they want the stats, but in the end if they win 1-0 they're still happy.
J.R. is playing for a contract though, so he must have a little added motivation to put up the numbers.
Yeah but winning will solve that and if they're winning they will take care of him.
J.R. has had his off-the-court problems, so can you talk about him as a person?
One of the best people I know. He puts himself out there, and if you had someone haggling you every time you stepped out of your house or apartment, one of those times you're going to snap, it's just human nature. For celebrities it happens, but J.R. looks at himself as a big kid. A side people don't see is, say we are out at a Dave & Busters and it's someones birthday party, he will just decide to pay for the entire party without asking any questions. He also has Christmas drives where he just gives away stuff, yeah he has his flashy cars, but he has the means to do that. Overall he is very to himself, he keeps a small circle, and like anybody if they bug you enough you're going to snap, not on purpose, you just have no outlet. But he is one of the most honest people I know, he is a family man first and foremost, and they mean everything to him, his mother, father, daughters, wife and he will put them before anything.
Do you solely work with J.R. and Chris or are there other athletes as well?
No, for me not many other athletes, just because athletes are so picky I don't like them. Most of my clients are lawyers, doctors, CEOs, things like that. Still people with disposable income, but J.R. is really the only athlete of that caliber I work with.
Can you talk about the difference between working with someone like J.R. Smith and working with a lawyer?
Athletes know their bodies, the common day-to-day person does not. In the sense of an everyday person just wants to have fun and be pushed to a certain limit that they can't be pushed to mentally and physically themselves. An athlete you can't break especially during the season. As a trainer for an athlete your job is to keep them on the field or the court, not to make them better but to increase longevity. For an everyday person they have different goals. It could be weight loss, it could be to get bigger, or it could be to get stronger. Athletes rarely have goals like that, they just want to maintain their strength on the field of play. That's one of the biggest differences I've noticed between athletes and regular day-to-day people.
Do you think the Cavs have a shot at the title this season?
Talent-wise, yes, I think they could, but how Golden State is playing, and Golden State still isn't at their best, the Spurs and Clippers are only going to get better, and the East is stronger than we might think. It won't be a cakewalk through the East like it was last year because there is a lot of competition, but they definitely have a chance.