On Friday the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to trade veteran forward Josh Smith back to the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to foreign players who may never figure into the Clippers plans, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Smith signed a one-year veterans minimum contract to play for the Clippers this past summer in search of a ‘more defined’ role in the NBA. Ironically, Smith struggled to find playing time in L.A. and rather than waive him straight up, Doc Rivers agreed to send him back to Houston.
Despite being traded on Friday morning and flying into Houston from New York just a couple of hours before tip-off, Josh Smith actually played in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks – and he played well. Smith came off the bench and made an immediate impact, with his first play being a beautiful pocket pass to a cutting James Harden that ultimately led to ‘the beard’ getting fouled.
‘J-Smoove’ had several highlight plays in the Rockets 102-98 win against the Bucks, reminding the fans in Houston what he brings to the table. He is an excellent passer with above-average court vision, as evidenced by all of the open looks he created for his teammates. Running a pick-and-roll with Harden, in particular, exemplified Smith’s passing ability as he repeatedly found open shooters in the corners. The highlight of the night, however, came from a doomed isolation drive that saw Smith nearly lose the ball and find a cutting Marcus Thornton with an incredible no-look reverse pass for an easy layup (video of that play can be seen here).
Aside from recording six assists, Smith’s stat-line wasn’t entirely impressive as he scored just two points on ten percent shooting and had a plus-minus (+/-) of minus five. However, Smith’s positive impact on the game was clear on both ends of the floor. In addition to his great passing, he played solid defense and brought an infectious energy that this team has desperately needed.
Not only was the crowd excited to have Smith back as they exploded in applause with every highlight play, but his teammates were as well. Of Smith’s return, Harden said that ‘he did the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but they’re effective and help teams win. We’re just happy to have him back.’
In a time of desperation, the Rockets needed to do something to get back on track. Trading for Josh Smith was General Manager Daryl Morey’s low-risk response, and it may prove to be a great move in the long run. Smith was a significant reason why the Rockets made the Western Conference Finals last year and it’s not crazy to think he can once again help Houston make a strong Playoff push.