It’s been a rough few years for Josh Smith, as rough as it can be for someone who was once a borderline All-Star, and now doesn’t have an NBA team that’s interested him.
It’s not a money thing. Since being cut by the Detroit Pistons early in the 2014-2015 season, Smith is due $5.3 million (per hoopsrumors.com) each season through the 2019-2020 season. He played just over a year into his four-year, $58 million contract, which was quite high at the time, before being released. He played for the Houston Rockets (successfully), the Los Angeles Clippers (unsuccessfully) and the Rockets (unsuccessfully) again.
He turned down big money from China in order to stay in shape and try to find himself an NBA team. Right now, the perception of him is someone that’s in the way of team cohesion and success, which is keeping him out of bounds. Smith, to be frank, just isn’t that good of a player anymore. Someone who relied heavily on his athleticism never developed a consistent shooting game or post moves. He’s only 30, entering the league as a teenager when high school to the league straight with no college in the middle was still allowed. Yes, he’s been in the NBA for that long.
Smith has said he’s changed, changing, willing to accept that everything that’s happened since leaving the Atlanta Hawks for the Pistons is partially on him, which never really showed while he was playing, considering he didn’t make an effort to change on the court. There were the moments with the Rockets during his 2014-2015 half-season there, helping them make the conference finals. Overall, he’s seemed like a player who doesn’t care that much for quite some time.
According to him, that’s not true:
I’m not a guy that is oblivious to my surroundings, I know that changes need to be made. It’s something that I have done wrong to now be figuring out my next move and figuring out what I need to do to be better. Even yoga this summer has helped me become one with my spirit, body and mind. I’ve done things to take steps toward bettering myself, having patience. I have a lot left to give to this game. I’m ready to go now. I feel like I’m in the best shape, and I’ve worked extremely hard this offseason. I’m ready.
The perception of me seemed to start early on with Atlanta, but after Detroit, it left people completely puzzled. People didn’t understand how it happened, how I was let go. It just didn’t fit. But wherever I have gone in development situations, I have been able to be on winning teams. When I came to Atlanta, we were at the bottom. Al Horford came, and we made it a consistent playoff team. When I went to Houston [in 2015] after Detroit, we made it to the Western Conference finals, something that they hadn’t done since the ’90s. I played impactful minutes for us to get to those platforms.
My main goal is that I am an NBA player. Being able to go overseas, people are professional, but the NBA is what I have built myself to do. I’m still hungry. If I jumped to leave my NBA chances behind, I feel it would’ve been an act of desperation. I’m not a guy who feels like I have to start or play 30 minutes a night anymore. I wish for an opportunity to be able to contribute, to be a positive guy around the locker room. It has been missing from me. I’m not doubting it. I felt I have always showed support for my teammates, cheering for them, but I have to do a better job. I feel I have something to give the NBA, period.
Smith played in 55 games overall last season for the Clippers and Rockets, averaging 6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. He shot a career low 36.4% from the field, while not giving up on launching ill-advised 3-pointers, making only 28.7% of them on 2.6 shots a night.