Wednesday, September 7, 2011
NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Joe Smith is not your average Joe. Joe Smith is not your average Mr. Smith. Joe Smith is not your average NBA journeyman either. He's been one of the association's most unique, dedicated and hardest working talents over the last two decades, helping more teams then you can count and remember and taking his regular name to households all around and across America.
The multi-talented, double team, triple threat has built a career off versatility. Whether it's perfectly portraying basketball legend Connie Hawkins in the movie 'Rebound', or acting as and channelling other versatile big man greats like Bob McAdoo on the court. Or whether it be releasing a real rap album with his lyrical skills under his Twitter alias Joe Beast, or whether it be his basketball skill-set 'Stutter' stepping like singer Joe, while leaning back like Fat Joe, to 'Pump It Up' like Joe Budden, Joe Smith does this. Truly not your average Joe.
In the matrix of his NBA career, Joe's been everywhere like Agent Smith, ready to step in and be whatever he's needed to be, do whatever is needed to be done. He's done this for 12 out of 30 of the association's franchises, almost half the league. He shares the record for playing for the most teams in his career with speedy guard Chucky Brown, physical forward Tony Massenburg and top star Jim Jackson and soon he could hold it. Just like his co-record holders, he's been able to do this because of his hard-work, job dedication and versatile talents. He's been more than trade bait, this journeyman is always destined to help anyone. Accepted everywhere like credit cards, to the debit of his opponent, he's always guaranteed to work and you can cash in on that. He's been the leagues prototype of the best 21st century big man, athletic, strong, fundamental, with long arms and an even longer, stretch-Armstrong range too. With a slender but strong frame, Smith can run and dunk like a guard, but also go inside and bang with his fellow forwards and centres. Joe really is a beast.
Coming out of Norfolk, Virginia this 6 foot 10, 225 pound, 'Naismith College Player of the Year', Maryland marvel was the perfect specimen for a basketball player. It was almost like he was created for a video game. It's little wonder, he was taken 1st in the 1995 draft by the Golden State Warriors, Joe Smith's name was ready for the big, bright lights. He was a star, made. Smith's all rookie year saw him took before stars Kevin Garnett, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse in the draft and although he came second to mighty mouse Damon Stoudemire (another guy he was taken before) in the 'Rookie Of The Year' voting he still showed and proved that he could stand next to all these legends.
Smith was looking strong as a Warrior in Golden State, but then after a brief pit-stop in Philadelphia came the Minnesota Timberwolves years. Following the last lockout Smith was a top prize in the 1998 free-agent market and Minny stole him with a bargain sign. Then with fellow third year man and legendary forward prototype Kevin Garnett, Smith would form a frontcourt tandem for the ages that would cure K.G. and Minnesota's problems and bad luck. That was until the genie went back into the lamp as salary scandal hit.
After Minnesota where severely punished and the NBA voided the last year of Smith's contract the unselfish star was on the move once again. Michigan became Joe's home for a year to start the new millennium. Smith played well as a backup for a Detroit Piston's team that was getting deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger. Journeyman Joe got his Marvin Gaye on calling home wherever he laid his hat. Then Smith had to give up Motown for his chance for career redemption in his return to Minnesota. Like Marvin it was time to get it on.
After two great seasons this travelling man's journey really began, as the buck started from Milwaukee to more stake in Philly, by way of a nugget of time in Denver. The Bucks, Sixers and Nuggets sure needed him, as did the wind and wine of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Joe was always a big contributor and difference maker to a team, able to put up significant minutes and statistics. His valuable veteran presence solidified a team, his size bolstered the frontcourt and his name gave significance to the bench and the box-score when it was called. Trades then sent him to Oklahoma and then New Orleans (but the trade was rescinded), but either or-the Thunder or the Hornets-Smith brought his worth and value with every transaction and transition.
In his season in the A with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith was a much needed elder-statesman on a young, raw but hungry bunch of Hawks in the ATL. In that year Smith made history as well becoming the 92nd player in NBA history to reach 1000 games played. He achieved this under century, grand record in a game against the New Jersey Nets who he was then traded to. Only in Joe Smith's career would something like that happen. Then only three months later Smith's bags may as well have remained unpacked as he then headed to sunnier California climates as he headed to the Los Angeles Lakers for Sasha Vujacic in a big, complicated trade that also involved the Houston Rockets. Proving to be a vital cog for the then reigning champion Lakers, Smith replaced the machines big contributions off the bench. He is a key member of this L.A. Team, again giving them depth and veteran leadership, making his points and rebounds in his minutes. He is the passionate, energy guy, motivating his team from the bench that the Lakers missed since charismatic characters like Ronny Turiaf and Mark Madsen left. The number one pick with the number one jersey, giving all he has, first and foremost, front and centre.
Smith has made it a great career with averages of 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds (including 18.7 and 8.5 in a sensational sophomore season in Golden State) and his campaign to be one of the best veterans, role-players and hard workers this league has seen continues. It's only going to get more legendary. The Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a whole owe him a debt of gratitude. He's been through it all and done it all and he 'aint done. He's giving it all to his teams with that family type love. Yes sir!