Player Report Card: Joe Smith

The end of any season, no matter how premature, requires reflection. To that end, Silver Screen and Roll's team of scribes will spend time over the coming weeks reviewing the contributions of every member of the 2010-2011 Los Angeles Lakers. Today's participant: the only man to play for all 30 NBA teams*, Joe Smith.

*Fact still being reviewed for its accuracy,

If you look at the entirety of Joe Smith's career story arc, it looks as if it belongs to a completely different player. Just think about how much teams have been willing to give up to get Joe Smith on their team. Golden State made Joe Smith the 1st pick of the 1995 draft, and then packaged him away (along with Brian Shaw!!) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Jackson just 2.5 years later. The Minnesota Timberwolves made an illegal deal to bring Smith on board in 1998, and ended up sacrificing three first round draft picks for his services. Despite the heavy price paid to sign Smith, he was only in Minnesota for two years before he moved on to Philadelphia for a season and then (wait for it) went back to Minny for two more seasons. You would think the T-wolves would know when to just cut their losses...but I sure do miss the Kevin McHale days, don't you? (thanks to KAAAAAAAAAHN, even Wolves fans do).

There's just one problem with Joe Smith's legacy...he's Joe Smith. Hindsight will always be 20/20, but hindsight tells us that Joe Smith did not deserve to be rated as highly as he was early in his career. The fact that he was picked 1st overall is mildly amusing, but he's hardly the worst bust out of that slot. There have been plenty of dudes picked 1st overall who have flamed out worse than Joe. But between that and the Minnesota incidents, Joe Smith might actually have been the most expensive player of all time (draft-wise). For JOE FREAKING SMITH !?!? 

Another three uninspiring years in Milwaukee later, the Journeyman portion of Joe Smith's career began in earnest. With it comes the part of this post in which we can speak positively about Joe Smith, because he is no longer being over-rated by the teams looking to acquire his services. Nobody thinks Joe Smith is walking through that door to save the day. He's just another big body. As the league has come to that realization, Joe Smith has found his niche in this league. He is one of the best journeymen of all time.

Not in any kind of basketball related way...that would be both silly and oxymoronic with the concept of a journeyman. The very role itself is destined to not be very good at the game. Instead, I'm talking about actually journeying around the league...Joe Smith is amazing at doing that. In the past 5 years, he's played with the same team for an entire 82 game season only once. He's played for three different teams two separate times, including ending back-to-back seasons in Cleveland despite not starting there. He's played for 13 different teams, with 16 different stints as a player. It's really quite incredible. His nickname should be Half-Man, Half A-Moving.

What, you expected some sort of knowledge on his role and ability with the Los Angeles Lakers, some analysis regarding his contributions to the team? He sucked. Of course he sucked, he's Joe Smith. He was never expected not to suck. He was brought in for two reasons: to play garbage time, and to balance out the team scrimmages so  other folks wouldn't have to play out of position. The fact that Theo Ratliff couldn't even play that role shows just how badly the front office missed the mark with his signing, but that's a different player for a different day.

All you need to know about the Joe Smith era is that he played fewer minutes than the man he was traded for (Sasha Vujacic), despite being on the team nearly twice as long this season as Mr. Machine was.  And it's not like Sasha was a regular in the rotation either. Smith was basically the "In Case of Fire, Break Glass" member of the Lakers roster, except if the axe inside the case were replaced with a nail file. You don't complain about the nail file not being up to the task at hand. You simply complain about the nail file being broken. But that too is another story for another player.

Final Grade: D+

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