It’s been a rough few weeks for Josh Smith.
The Clippers forward lost his spot in the rotation just as his team started to play its best basketball of the season, a combination that will probably keep him tethered to the bench even with Blake Griffin sidelined for at least another week.
On the plus side, Smith apparently can still call on Clippers Coach Doc Rivers as a character reference.
Rivers praised Smith for wanting to play in the fourth quarter of the Clippers’ 130-99 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at Staples Center.
“Josh’s spirit has been terrific,” Rivers said after the Clippers’ sixth consecutive triumph. “He’s been very good. I usually don’t put veterans in down the stretch like that and I asked him and he said, ‘I want to go, I want to play,’ which was very nice. He could have said no, and I think nine out of 10 veterans would have, yet he wanted to play, which I thought was really nice.”
Smith missed both of his shots and went scoreless in his seven minutes, but his willingness to play earned points with his coach. Smith also recently said he had been working out at the Clippers’ practice facility at night in an attempt to stay ready for when his team needs him.
When that point might come remains unclear. Smith lost his spot in the rotation to Cole Aldrich, who has helped the Clippers reserves attain the consistency that was missing earlier this season with his rolls to the basket that provide spacing and a bevy of energy plays.
Smith has not played in five of the Clippers’ last seven games and is averaging career lows in points (5.5), rebounds (3.8), assists (1.3), minutes (14.0) and field-goal percentage (.385). Rivers has acknowledged that Smith’s over-reliance on jump shots was part of the reason his playing time was reduced.
Smith’s plight is similar to that of Clippers forward Lance Stephenson, who has played less than 10 minutes in four of the last five games and logged 21 minutes Saturday only because his team was blowing out the 76ers.
Neither Smith nor Stephenson appears to be on the verge of receiving an appreciable uptick in playing time.
“For me, I’m just worried about who I’m playing and then when someone else is not, then we’ll put Josh in or someone else in,” Rivers said. “But right now, why would you want to touch what’s going on?”