Huq’s Pen: On Greg Smith

  • In a move that came as a bit of a shock (to use that term loosely), the Rockets announced yesterday that they had waived forward/center Greg Smith and signed center Dexter Pittman to replace him for the remainder of the year.  First, before I dive into the obituary on Smith, a funny story on Pittman: our days at the 40 acres collided, though I can’t remember for how long and in what year.  That in and of itself is depressing.  In any event, one day, word spread that campus legend Vince Young was on site at Gregory gym.  Naturally, myself and a few trusted colleagues headed over to check out the scene.  (If it comes as odd to you that anyone would interrupt their daily schedule to see Young, realize that this was a) before it was realized that he isn’t a very good quarterback at the professional level and b) this was on the 40 acres where the man stands behind only maybe Jesus Christ and Elvis Pressley as the most significant figures in human history.)  Young and his entourage were partaking in a game of pickup on the main center court, much to the delight of a massive crowd of onlookers.  Pittman was part of the aforementioned entourage.  I can’t remember who else.  Maybe T.J Ford?  In any event, Young played it safe the entire game, launching lazy perimeter jumpers but at one point went crashing down after absorbing contact from a driving Pittman.  Young turned and remarked to the crowd, “damn, that’s a big boy.”  That’s it; that was the story.  Slow news day.
  • I swear I have a post somewhere, specifically about Greg Smith where I devote at least half of it to a monologue about how difficult it is to forecast young players because the likelihood of success is so small.  I’m serious, I wrote about this but can’t find it.  Anyways, wow – this is why you just can never feel safe about player projection.  It is hard to succeed in the NBA – it is hard.  We don’t fully appreciate that.  I said in the other Smith piece–and probably put it much more succinctly–we often look at ten year vets who never amounted to much and deride them dismissively as “scrubs”…and while they may not rank highly on the NBA totem pole, in the job market, lasting ten years in one of the most highly specialized workforces in the entire global economy is damn impressive.  Now, to be sure, Smith isn’t going to flame out completely.  He’ll catch on somewhere quickly.  But the greater point stands.  We too often see a tantalizing stretch of play and assume long-term extrapolation as a guarantee.  After that game last year where Smith outplayed Dwight Howard (the irony) to the tune of like 20 and 10, how many of you thought Smith was the team’s future at center?  At the least, how many of you thought he’d be a long term fixture in the team’s rotation?  Had I told you after that night, or hell, after the end of last year when Smith closed out the season at power forward next to Asik helping the team to a sparkling overall +/-, that Smith would be outright waived in less than a year’s time (in favor of Dexter Pittman of all people), it might have come as hard to believe.  But this is the NBA, man.  It’s hard to succeed.

  • That leads me to a tangent.  We always talk about “surprises.”  What a huge “surprise” Chandler Parsons is and how great that pick was yada, yada, yada etc.  Patrick Beverley etc.  But you know what I find even more remarkable?  Delivered expectations.  Take Lebron.  The thing I find so amazing about Lebron isn’t that he’s this good but that he actually met the hype.  He actually met the hype!  This was a guy who had been followed since before high school, a guy about whom an NBA GM famously said prior to that draft that there were only five current NBA players he wouldn’t trade for, a guy whose high school games were televised nationally….and he met the hype!  He is in the conversation as GOAT!  They said he couldn’t shoot and needed a post-game and now a) he has the best postup efficiency stats in the league and b) is a 50-40 shooter!  Same thing with Harden.  He was acquired to be “the man” and he’s doing it!  Am I the only person here who finds that amazing?  I know that upon the basis of his per-minute efficiency stats, extrapolation was probably a natural conclusion….but still….I don’t think it’s really settled in for me personally that we essentially acquired a top-5 player before his prime for what amounted to a few months of Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, and Danny Schayes’ younger brother.  Okay, enough.  Back to Smith.
  • What exactly happened here?  On the surface, I found myself often perplexed last season as to how Smith hadn’t been highly regarded coming out.  This was a fully grown NBA big with athleticism, maybe the best hands in the entire league, and, judging from the many times I spoke with him, a damn good attitude.  (I know a lot of guys are good at just feeding the media whatever it wants to hear but trust me…when someone has a bad attitude, they don’t even bother.  See: Will, T.)  Smith was atrocious defensively, especially with interior rotations but that’s fairly common with young bigs (see: Jones, T.) and something said young bigs can grow out of with more playing time (see: Jones, T.).  The actual reason Smith was cut was because he’s been injured all year, won’t be ready in time for the playoffs, and more importantly wasn’t deemed valuable enough to extend in the summer forfeiting 2015 cap space.  But still.  I beg to differ.  If Smith actually held even an ounce of the promise he showed last season, I don’t think he would have been let go this easily, playoffs/cap be damned.  You just don’t let good young bigs go for nothing: Pittman won’t see a second of playing time in the postseason with Asik and Motiejunas around, so I don’t buy the notion that they just had to have an extra big for the stretch run; they could have found creative ways to save the money.  No.  I think Smith ultimately just wasn’t as good as he looked to us on the surface.  I’d venture to guess that the coaches determined that he just wasn’t picking things up quickly enough to be able to help the team in the next two years.  This was a disastrously lazy interior defender of whom we’re speaking.  I think he just wasn’t showing any signs of ever getting better.  And that takes us back to our main point – success in this league isn’t a foregone conclusion.

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Total comments: 10
  • Buckko says 3 months ago

    Don't underrate soft talented, high efficient big bodies, just ask the wizards or clippers about value of frontcourt depth.

  • Texan Ensemble says 3 months ago

    I hope can see Buckko's prediction happening, and actually its the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news. I bet he is back next year. Smith will most likely never be a starter in the league, but he is young, cheap, big, athletic, and plays hustle ball and all of that combined is the making of someone who finds a niche in the league. He shows signs of being a plus player, but was injured way too much for us to see what he could develop into.

    Speaking of us signing Texas' Exes'...while Pittman will not be a factor unless something season killing happens, I really have high hopes that we go sign Avery Bradley in the off season. Pair him with Beverly as the PG rotation, and we have the best defensive PG on the court almost at all times, and the perfect compliment to Harden and Lin (assuming Lin isn't traded once he becomes a expiring contract, which I think he will be traded).

  • timetodienow1234567 says 3 months ago We are signing ex UT players to lure both LMA and KD here.
  • Steven says 3 months ago Wow a three page monologue on the releasing of the 15th player on the team. I'd hate to see your finger after all the typing you would do if Morey had gotten rid of someone with importance/value. All Greg Smith will ever be remember for is his -17 against the Thunder in game 6 last season. Second he came in game changed and it was all Thunder.
  • Buckko says 3 months ago When I saw him get injured in the nicks game, I knew it was more serious than a sprain knee.
  • Buckko says 3 months ago Another possibility is the rockets might resign smith in the offseason for cheap like veteran minimum considering no one outside dedicated rocket fans know about him and he's been injured all season. They just waive him now because they need more depth for the playoffs. I also doubt the injury was Chronic, they should've perform surgery when he first got injured but they waited.
  • Cooper says 3 months ago

    Micro fracture surgery is hard to recover from especially for a big man, Pittman leaves a lot to be desired and likely won't play but he is a very large human being so if Asik and Howard got in foul trouble he might be serviceable for spot minuetes.

  • Sir Thursday says 3 months ago

    New post: Huq's Pen: On Greg Smith
    By: rahat huq

    • I swear I have a post somewhere, specifically about Greg Smith where I devote at least half of it to a monologue about how difficult it is to forecast young players because the likelihood of success is so small. I'm serious, I wrote about this but can't find it. Anyways, wow - this is why you just can never feel safe about player projection. It is hard to succeed in the NBA - it is hard. We don't fully appreciate that. I said in the other Smith piece--and probably put it much more succinctly--we often look at ten year vets who never amounted to much and deride them dismissively as "scrubs"...and while they may not rank highly on the NBA totem pole, in the job market, lasting ten years in one of the most highly specialized workforces in the entire global economy is damn impressive. Now, to be sure, Smith isn't going to flame out completely. He'll catch on somewhere quickly. But the greater point stands. We too often see a tantalizing stretch of play and assume long-term extrapolation as a guarantee. After that game last year where Smith outplayed Dwight Howard (the irony) to the tune of like 20 and 10, how many of you thought Smith was the team's future at center? At the least, how many of you thought he'd be a long term fixture in the team's rotation? Had I told you after that night, or hell, after the end of last year when Smith closed out the season at power forward next to Asik helping the team to a sparkling overall +/-, that Smith would be outrightwaived in less than a year's time (in favor of Dexter Pittman of all people), it might have come as hard to believe. But this is the NBA, man. It's hard to succeed.

    So the main thing I took from this post is that the site's search function should probably be improved ;). (It's not very easy to look back through past posts at the moment, probably should be rectified).

    But other than that, I'm sad to see Smith go because he was always fun to watch when he played. However I completely understand the management's decision here. It would be great if Pittman didn't have to play a second in the playoffs, but we've seen over the past few games how the team suffers if for some reason one of Asik and Howard can't play. The defence craters whenever the remaining centre has to take a breather, and the team can't have that happen on the biggest stage. Pittman is insurance against one of them going down, that's all. It's a good call to pick him up just to be sure. Hopefully he can provide the necessary size to man the centre position for a few minutes if absolutely necessary.

    ST

  • Rahat Huq says 3 months ago

    And perhaps the knee injury is chronic in nature?

    Forgot to add this - another possibility.

  • Bigtkirk says 3 months ago

    And perhaps the knee injury is chronic in nature?