In a trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets have once again acquired forward Josh Smith. That’s right, the missing piece of the “Band of Brothers” has returned.
In what has been a tumultuous year for the Rockets, this might be the best news the franchise has received. A lot of people were left scratching their heads as to why Smith was traded in the first place. Here was a guy who contributed invaluable efforts during last year’s playoff run. Players want to play and with the uncertainty of his purpose on the team (playing behind Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones) Smith seized the opportunity to get more playing time with the Clippers. As luck would have it, things didn’t turn out that way and the Rockets chemistry was off without him. “I am glad to be here,” Smith said before the Bucks game after his return to Houston. “I’m excited just being able to get an opportunity to get back on the floor and contribute and play for some guys that were newfound brothers to me last year…” In Smith’s first game back against the Bucks, the change in team morale was instant. There appeared to be a bounce in everyone’s step and the team looked like they were actually having fun. Perhaps knowing that a guy like Smith (who had six assists out of the gate) can easily find the open man, yet is unafraid to take the shot, boosts the confidence of the entire team. Harden spoke on Smith’s return: “It feels good actually… Josh is very talented, but he’s skilled and he’s smart… He did the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet but help teams win.” A similar sentiment came from Corey Brewer, “It felt good [on Friday]. Josh is going to bring a lot to us. Just like last year in our system, Josh is great, just how he moves the ball, the way he rebounds; he’s just a good teammate. Friday showed how when we’re moving the ball and [when] we’re playing together is good for us.”
“Playing together” might be the key component to the Rockets future success. The game plan of depending on James Harden to have a record setting night every night to secure a win wasn’t working. Wishing and hoping Dwight Howard could stay healthy enough to play every game wasn’t working. The frustrated team desperately needed a change and from the looks of the game against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, Smith seems to have unlocked the ‘team play’ mode.
It was a sight to see…the crowd roared every time Smith entered the game. The energy was palpable in Toyota Center. Trevor Ariza relaxed into his 3-point rhythm, dropping 6 long range shots for the night against the Mavericks. “When they brought (Smith) back in here, a veteran player, someone who understands the flow of the game … he’s just been huge for us,” Ariza said. The energy Smith brought into the arena permeated the entire bench who remained standing and engaged throughout the second half of the game. The crowd erupted when Josh Smith faked out Dirk Nowitzki with a show and spin move reminiscent of a Hakeem Olajuwon-esque dream shake. James Harden and Dwight Howard looked more excited on the sidelines cheering the team on than they have looked all season long. With the missing piece from last year’s triumphant season back in place, things are looking up in Houston. The Rockets may not make the playoffs this year but there is still plenty of time to play some quality ball. “It’s definitely a comfortable feeling being able to get back. And seeing the appreciation from the fans and my teammates definitely instills confidence that this is where I belong.” Smith said. Welcome back J Smoove.