This news earlier today via Rockets press release.
The demotion doesn’t come as a total shock as much of Smith’s playing time had been stolen away by one Cole David Aldrich.
But while not a shock, the move is disappointing, not so much for its implications concerning Smith, but rather what it signifies about ‘expectation’ in general.
In the last almost-2o years of following this team, I’ve seen countless players, from Oscar Torres to Vincent Hamilton, to Roderick Rhodes, fizzle out after tantalizing for three week stretches. Each and every time, almost without fail, the commentary follows the same progression: “Wow, they might really have something.” –> “X might be their long term fit at x position.” –> “What is X’s potential?” –> “Can X be an All-Star?”
Now by no means does this signify the end of Smith’s career. He very well could return to the lineup and again be a force. But the demotion lends itself as a telling tale towards caution. Keep expectations saddled for even a complete demolition of Dwight Howard is not enough to indicate lasting power.
And on lasting power, is anything more greatly taken for granted? How many rookie pitchers have blown through major league lineups only to be figured out their next time around the league. In the majors, they are planning for you; teams figure you out. In the NBA, you are one of just a few-hundred men employed for service. Can you stay effective after coaches have had time to watch tape?
I was listening to a Bill Simmons podcast with Jalen Rose some weeks ago, and the latter was mentioning some player, I forget whom. Rose was remarking that the player had played ten seasons in the NBA and really underscoring the significance of that achievement. “He was able to stay in the NBA for 10 years. That’s not an easy thing to do.” And that statement, or similar such, never really hits you until really taking it in. We belittle and mock so-called “scrubs”, but some of these men have managed to endure a decade in an industry with only few-hundred employment opportunities. This is professional sports – it’s a really big deal.
On Smith, I think it’s telling that if you go through discussion on this very board, and most likely others regarding this team, a good proportion of fans probably would not have been willing to deal Smith in a package for DeMarcus Cousins, back when the former was at the height of his tear. Lasting power is a curious thing.