New Los Angeles Clipper signee Josh Smith is trying to turn his career around with his fourth team in 26 months. The versatile forward, who finished out 2014-15 with Houston after being waived by the Detroit Pistons midseason, signed on for the veteran’s minimum in Los Angeles at around $1.5 million for 2015-16.
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He also maybe kinda let a dumb, if completely accurate, thing slip.
Speaking at the press conference introducing (and, in DeAndre Jordan’s case, re-introducing) new Clipper players on Tuesday, Smith dropped a Latrell Sprewell-like statement that did not go unnoticed by Orlando Sentinel columnist David Whitley:
"At the end of the day, you know, I do have a family," he said. "So it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I'm going to push through it, you know."
You know? I know. You’re going to be raked over for this in the comment section.
Smith has made nearly $94 million in his NBA career thus far, and even with the insane real estate prices in Los Angeles and stiff tax considerations, he won’t be clipping coupons any time soon. If he actually does turn his career around, something we’ve been tapping our foot and waiting on for years, he will be able to take advantage of the massive uptick in salary cap space next season and act as a potential eight-figure a year consolation prize from a dumb team that thought they could get Kevin Durant.
The forward signed a four-year, $54 million contract with the Pistons in the summer of 2013 after an up and down nine-year run with the Atlanta Hawks. Frustrated with his fit and his play during the first year and a half of his tenure in Detroit, the Pistons waived Smith using the stretch provision last December. This means the Pistons will still have to pay Smith the remainder of the contract they owed him, but in chunks of $5.4 million per year between now and 2019 as opposed to the yearly $14 million payouts in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
This is where the part about Josh Smith being completely correct comes into play.
Smith signed for below the $5.4 million the Pistons owe him in 2015-16, which in a way is good for him because it means the Pistons’ salary hit doesn’t have to make up the difference and he’ll make a combined salary of just under $6.9 million this year. That’s just under half of what he was set to make this season, $14 million, had the Pistons not waived him, or had they found a doofus to trade for him last season.
I don’t care who you are or what you’re making, when you budget for something and then your yearly salary is cut in half, that’s a shot to the system. Even if that $5.4 million will act as a nice chunk of change for a player who might not be in the NBA in 2018-19, at age 33.
Could Josh Smith have found a better way of saying things? Sure. Perhaps “harder” isn’t the right way to describe a change in plans from $14 million to $6.89 million. It is a hit, though. Especially as he’s reeling from a paucity of free agent options, being forced to take the minimum in what should be his prime in yet another attempt to play well and earn a long-term deal in the next offseason.
Smith played slightly better in Houston last season while attempting to rehabilitate his basketball image alongside good buddy Dwight Howard, but he wasn’t great. The only real change to his game was that he made a better percentage of his mid-range and paint looks, and took more three-pointers (which improved his league-worst True Shooting Percentage to that of the ranks of “just really bad”) at a below-average mark. He dished fewer assists and turned the ball over more, and his defense remained solid.
Houston was supposed to act as the rehabilitation center, playing 25 minutes as a super sub and working into the third round of the playoffs. He did start eight playoff games and made an above-average mark of 38 percent of his three-pointers in the postseason, but apparently that 17-game sample size (even against improved competition) wasn’t enough to sway teams into offering him a healthy, long-term deal.
Now he’s banking on playing three playoff series (or more) with the Clippers this season, though it’s doubtful that he’ll often see starters-level minutes on what is now a surprisingly deep Clipper team.
That realization, mixed with the limited free agent interest after a sound postseason run, has to be hard on the man. And it will be hard on his family to jump from town to town to town to town and to (we’re guessing) another town next summer, all in the space of three years.
You gotta find a better way to put this, though, Josh.
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