Josh Smith could have returned to the Rockets for the $2,492,400 Non-Bird Exception, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.
He could have signed with the Kings, who had plenty of cap room and interest in the forward.
Smith was asked about that decision, and his response has been roundly criticized and compared to Latrell Sprewell, who infamously said “I got my family to feed” when the Timberwolves didn’t offer him a contract extension while he was still making $14.6 million.
Let’s start with the actual exchange between the media and Smith, which begins at the 14-minute mark:
It wasn’t about the money because of the Detroit situation. But at the end of the day, you know, I do have a family. So, it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it and try to do long-term after this year. But I think, this year, focusing on doing something special with this group of guys – we have the opportunity to do something special. Right now, this is what I want to focus on.
Smith is slated to earn $6,403,262 next season – $4,904,075 from the Pistons (who released him last year), $947,276 from the Clippers and $551,911 from the NBA (which pays a portion of salaries for players on one-year minimum contracts).
That’s quite a bit of money.
But so what?
Smith doesn’t say it will be hard on him.
He says it will be harder on him, which is indisputably true. It’s harder when you make less money. That doesn’t make it hard. It just makes it harder, which is all Smith said.
Remember, Smith originally thought he’d make $13.5 million next year on his deal with the Pistons. Instead, he’s getting less than half (though his Pistons payouts will last until 2020).
He doesn’t come across as complaining. He doesn’t seem to be pleading for sympathy.
He’s just responding to a question about why he took a minimum deal from the Clippers – a decision that cost him money.
In fact, Smith goes out of his way to say finances didn’t have a huge influence on his decision because the Pistons owe him so much no matter where he signed. But once he chose the Clippers, he did make a financial sacrifice.
Smith acknowledging that shouldn’t make him the poster boy for out-of-touch professional athletes.