Los Angeles Clippers sign free agent Josh Smith to veteran's minimum
Josh Smith signs with the Los Angeles Clippers
In a deal announced on Thursday, the Los Angeles Clippers have signed a one year deal worth the veteran’s minimum($1.5 million) with free agent forward Josh Smith, the player who helped the Houston Rockets defeat and eventually eliminate the Clippers with a big fourth quarter run in Game 6 of last seasons’ Western Conference Semifinals.
A source told ESPN’s Chris Broussard, that Smith “chose winning and a defined role over money.” The Clippers will be Smith’s fourth team in as many NBA seasons.
"Over my pro career I have spent a lot of time in Houston with friends and family. Over the past year, while with the Rockets, the team, fans and people of Houston have made it a second home," Smith said in a statement. "I want to express my appreciation to everyone for the support and kindness they have showed me and my family while I have been here. Thank you!"
Smith’s rags to riches story last season
Early last season, Smith found himself playing Small Forward for the Detroit Pistons with their young bigs Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe occupying the paint. Playing a position he was not accustomed to took a toll on his stats and game. He began taking more outside shots, which he struggled to do at high percentage and eventually his game was hurting the team.
In 28 games for the Pistons, he averaged 13.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 32 minutes which is actually not that bad, but the Detroit franchise let him go for his shot making. Pistons’ waived Smith in December after he shot miserable percentages of 39% from the field and 24% from three point range during his short tenure with the team.
After clearing waivers, Smith became a free agent midway through the season but his childhood friend Dwight Howard recruited him to sign with the Houston Rockets. Early on he did come off the bench for the Rockets but playing his more familiar position of Power Forward, Smith gave them valuable bench contribution. After Donatas Motiejunas was forced to miss games due to injury, Smith stepped into the starting line-up and continued his good form with the Houston franchise.
Averaging 12 points, 6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 25 minutes across 55 games, Smith played a huge role in the Rockets’ deep Playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, where they were defeated by the eventual champions the Golden State Warriors in 5 games.
Signing Smith gives Clippers’ roster more depth
Although they did reach the Western Conference Semifinals and led that series by 3 games to 1, the team literally struggled to receive any effective contribution off their bench. Jamal Crawford was the only reliable production the team would get off their bench but with him on the court, the team is always one man short on defense. With Matt Barnes a veteran defensive specialist, the team was allowing their opponents to play 4 on 5 on defense.
Smith along with team’s other off-season signing Wesley Johnson will give the team reliable two way options that are surely an upgrade as compared to their previous players at those positions. All through last season, the Clippers’ roster had little or no depth which forced the likes of All-Stars Paul and Griffin to log heavy minutes right from the beginning of the Playoffs.
With DeAndre Jordan staying with the Clippers, after he spurned the Dallas Mavericks and the other off-season moves that the rising Los Angeles franchise have made will help them to be serious contenders for the upcoming NBA season. However, with the clock ticking on their dynasty, it is not enough for the Clippers to be just contenders. The off-season has made their roster better but the question that will still be asked of them will be whether they can make it over the hump to the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals.