Culver City Observer -

Signing Josh Smith Means The Clippers Are Real Serious Now


By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

The Clippers had a humiliating end to their recently completed season when their second unit couldn’t contribute enough to succeed at the most crucial time in the playoffs.

Fatigue was a factor as the Clippers lost a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter of a Game 6 loss to the Houston Rockets at Staples center.

The Clippers then lost Game 7 in Houston and could only wonder what might have been.

The Clippers set out to improve their depth in recent weeks as off-season maneuvering began.

They signed Paul Pierce, traded for Lance Stephenson, signed Cole Aldrich, re-signed free agent Austin Rivers and rescued DeAndre Jordan, who was on the brink of leaving for Dallas.

But they made the most surprising move until last

Thursday by signing veteran forward Josh Smith, who is owed $26 million over the next five seasons by the Detroit Pistons.

The 29-year-old Smith was released last December when the Pistons realized they weren’t going to make the playoffs. He finished the season with Houston, giving the Rockets a reserve forward who contributes 12 points and nine rebounds per game.

The Rockets wanted him back but had only $2.5 million available in their salary cap. Surely he could get more elsewhere so he declined.

Then he shockingly agreed with the Clippers for only $1.5 million, which is pocket money to successful NBA players.

Why would Smith do that?

“I chose winning and a defined role over money,” he explained.

The Clippers don’t have a history of winning the most crucial games. But even a player who helped eliminate them last season sees their potential.

Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are great but even they need significant help to get through the ultra competitive playoff series of games.

Smith and one teammate, Corey Brewer, combined for 29 fourth quarter points in that memorable Game 6 last season.

Smith is the youngest player in NBA history to record 1,000 blocks and in 2005 he won the league’s Slam Dunk contest.

Defending champion Golden State and perennial contender San Antonio are the early favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals next season. But the Clippers now belong in that group too.

Of course, a team with many new players must prove it has the togetherness required for a run at a championship and it’ll be the task of Coach Doc Rivers to make it happen.

But the direction of the Clippers is impressive as it’s obvious new owner Steve Ballmer wants a winner and is providing the support required to head that way.


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