In his Houston debut Josh Smith had 21 points and was a guy the Rockets leaned on down the stretch of a win to get some key buckets.He was making plays. Rockets fans were smiling.
In his next two games, Smith has 8 points total on 3-of-13 shooting, with 12 rebounds, eight turnovers and one assist. The Rockets starting five has yet to adjust to Smith in the mix — they were -10 as a group in 14 minutes in the loss to Washington Monday.
Two games is an incredibly small sample size. Smith may yet be a great pickup for the Rockets, he may provide needed depth at the four, plus some good defense. But these lines from the last couple games are not wildly out of character. Smith is displaying is the kind of shot selection, missing in close, and ball-stopping offense that had Detroit willing to eat $27 million just to set him free.
To be fair, there are reasons Smith can be struggling in Houston right now — he’s not familiar with his teammates, growing pains that were expected, and he’s not getting a ton of minutes with any one unit. He’s shown flashes of being dangerous, and maybe he is better suited to coming off the bench with this team (although he was allegedly promised a starting spot).
But the pattern through the first three games have Pistons fans nodding their head. They saw this for a couple seasons.
Not that this is that big a deal for Houston — they got him for just $2 million this season and once Terrence Jones returns they can cut back Smith’s minutes without much pain if they want. Or they can move him to a bench role where he is asked to create with the second unit. Coach Kevin McHale will have options.
It’s something to watch to see if he needs to use them.
By the way, nodding Pistons fans, Stan Van Gundy had options with Smith, too, and for a long time didn’t use them, something Vincent Goodwill pointed out at the Detroit News:
But it was Van Gundy who basically empowered Smith to (run the offense), essentially designing the offense around an inefficient player. (Brandon) Jennings often started possessions passing to Smith — who tried to do everything — and despite his ability to do a bunch of things well, it appeared the burden was too much for Smith to handle….
Smith’s start to the season was glaringly off to any casual observer, yet there was no modifications to the plan. His shooting was at a career-low rate, he wasn’t finishing in the paint and it looked as if his physical gifts had started to slide.
If Van Gundy is to be believed about his statement concerning the timing of Smith’s release (and we haven’t been given cause to doubt him) — that it was three weeks in the making, that there was no confrontation that hastened the move and it was more about having the practice time to adjust to no longer having Smith around — then why didn’t Van Gundy adjust how he wanted his anemic offense run while Smith was still here?
Remember, Van Gundy had the chance to trade Smith over the summer. He chose not to.
Yes the Pistons have looked a lot better the last two games — like with Houston it’s a small sample size but the ball is moving much better on offense — but that’s not all about Smith being gone. Van Gundy earns some of the blame as well.