Josh Smith clarifies “harder on me” comments in Players Tribune essay

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When Josh Smith was introduced along with the rest of the Clippers’ free-agent signings, he opened up about the difficulty of changing teams three times in less than a year. Here’s what he said at the time:

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.

It was pretty clear what he was talking about, but everyone immediately assumed the “harder on me” comments were about going from making almost $2.5 million with the Rockets to making the minimum with the Clippers, and generally speaking, nobody has much sympathy for millionaire professional athletes talking about needing to feed their families. The way they were being interpreted, the comments came across as tone-deaf and reminiscent of Latrell Sprewell’s infamous “I have a family to feed” comments.

Now, Smith has clarified his comments in a new essay on the Players’ Tribune called “Facts Only”:

Apparently the headline was: Josh Smith went to the Clippers press conference and said he didn’t make enough money? Even the idea of it is kind of ridiculous. Anyone who knows me, or knows how one-year contracts work in the NBA, understood what I was saying. This is my third team in less than a year. I was talking about how moving affects my family. But the headline about greed was the one everyone ran with.

The whole thing about it being “harder on me” comes down to family. It seems obvious to me, but maybe I could have said it more clearly. If you know the NBA, you know that moving to a new team is a decision that affects an athlete’s whole family. That’s even more true when you’re signing a one-year deal. With a one-year deal, there’s less stability because you know you might be moving again in a year.

All of this, of course, is entirely reasonable. Smith makes plenty of money, and he knows that. But it’s easy to forget that these players are people with families, often with kids, and it impacts a lot of people when they get traded or sign with another team. Just because Smith is very well-compensated for what he does doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be allowed to also worry about the well-being and stability of his family. That’s all he was saying with the comments.