In his first night in a Rockets’ uniform, Smith performed at a level that has to make the rest of the NBA take notice. He had 21 points in his debut, helping the Rockets earn a 117-111 win in overtime.
“When you’re a professional, and you’ve played a lot of years, it’s not that hard,” Smith said of joining a new team, “especially since you know a lot of the guys in the locker room. They helped me out when I was kind of lost out there.”
The Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and other teams that sought to sign Smith lost out. He can be considered by some a “head case” because he possesses enormous talent but has been ornery at times, moody at others and downright immature at still others. But he’s 6-foot-9, with long arms, can run the floor, jump and play with force above the rim.
Those attributes for a player are not common. Playing in Houston now, understanding all eyes are on him, could be the move that makes him look at his career with regret and be inspired to a higher place.
He sure seemed in the right place last night, even as he did not know the plays. But when you’re a basketball player, you figure it out. In Smith’s case, you just use your talents.
Case in point: The Rockets held a 111-109 lead with 1:18 left in overtime when Harden missed a 17-footer. Smith grabbed the offensive rebound, leading to a miss by Trevor Ariza. But Smith secured a second offensive rebound and was fouled and converted both free throws, padding the Rockets’ lead.
“We knew what he brought to the table,” said All-Star James Harden, who led the Rockets with 32 points and 10 assists. “All he has to do is go out there and play his game.”
On a night when Dwight Howard had just six points, Houston was able to win anyway because Smith, a day after joining the team, showed his worth. Scary for the rest of the NBA.