Jalen Smith has played so well for the Pacers after a trade from the Suns, there’s some concern he could draw more than his declined-rookie-scale option salary ($4,670,160) – the most Indiana can pay him as a free agent this summer.
But his costly gaffe against the Cavaliers yesterday won’t help his value.
The Pacers went on an 10-0 run – including Smith dunking and hitting a 3-pointer – to take a two-point lead in the final minute. After more back-and-forth, Indiana missed with the game tied and 18 seconds left. Cleveland grabbed the defensive rebound with the shot clock off and prepared for what should have been the final possession of regulation.
That’s when Smith inexplicably raced in to foul Darius Garland in the backcourt.
The Pacers had no fouls to give. Garland hit both free throws (to finish with 41 points), and the Cavs escaped with a 127-124 victory.
That’s on us. That’s on the coaching staff. We’ve just got to make sure that guys in that situation completely understand the situation. It’s something that does happen, and we just talked about it as a group.
This is a kid that really cares so much, and I told him, “Look, we’re going to learn from it. You can mourn it for about 10 minutes if you want to, and then you got to forget about it, and we’ve all got to learn from it.” And this is something that’s on the staff. We’ve got to make sure guys understand.
It was just a bad play on my part. My team did such a great job at battling back, and I kind of threw all that away with that foul. But, obviously, I take full responsibility for it. But at the end of the day, got to learn from it and move on. And it’s going to sting for a minute, but onto the next game.
Nah, it’s not on them. It’s on me. I take full responsibility for it. I ain’t going to let them scapegoat themselves for my accidents. It was just a lack of awareness at that point. Pretty much, the adrenaline, the fight for the comeback, it got to my head, and everything else blew out the window. But like I said, I take full responsibility for that. There’s no need for them to blame that on themselves.
Credit Smith for taking accountability. Not only did he face the media (a conduit to the public), he refused to let anyone else take blame. That shows maturity and makes him easier to support.
He’s fortunate the error came with the Pacers, who are already out of the postseason race, rather than with the championship-contending Suns. In fact, the loss even helps Indiana’s draft position.
So, it’s not the worst outcome, even if you’d like better decision-making from Smith in the long run.