NBA Coast to Coast: Josh Smith pays dividends in Rockets debut

NBA Coast to Coast: Josh Smith pays dividends in Rockets debut
Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) brings the ball up court during his debut with Houston on Friday night. (Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

Josh Smith immediately paid dividends for the Houston Rockets, while the Memphis Grizzlies remained spiraling on their longest losing streak of the season.

Smith, who signed earlier in the day, scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds Friday night as the Rockets beat Memphis, 117-111, 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 our there."

The Rockets held a 111-109 lead with 1:18 left in overtime when James Harden missed a 17-footer. Smith grabbed the offensive rebound, leading to a miss by Trevor Ariza, only to have Smith corral another offensive rebound.

Smith was fouled and converted both free throws, padding the Rockets' lead.

"We knew what he brought to the table," said Harden, who led the Rockets with 32 points and 10 assists. "All he has to do is go out there and play his game."

Ariza finished with 15 points, while Corey Brewer added 13. Patrick Beverley had 12 points for the Rockets, who took over the top spot in the Western Conference's Southwest Division from Memphis.

Dwight Howard had only six points, but connected on all four of his free throws in overtime. He grabbed 11 rebounds.

Marc Gasol led Memphis with 29 points, while Beno Udrih contributed 17. Quincy Pondexter scored 14, and Vince Carter had 10, including a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to fuel a Memphis rally.


Although the Philadelphia 76ers are having a woeful season, Michael Carter-Williams has been putting up numbers like an All-Star player. The 6-foot-6, second-year point guard is averaging 16 points, 7.5 assists and 6.8 rebounds a game.

The only other player in the NBA averaging 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds a game: All-Star guard James Harden of the Rockets. Carter-Williams has been on a tear the last 13 games, averaging 17 points, 9.4 assists and 7.3 rebounds.


Costly freedom

Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, on the free agency process that looms this summer for perhaps the most coveted available player: "I've already been through one and I did not especially enjoy it. I don't know how I'm going to feel in July. I really don't. This is the next five years of my life and I'm going to go all in. Whatever team you play for, you've always got to feel like you represent that team, that you've got to play for it. Because that's the way we grew up in Spain. You play for the city. You play for a way of doing things. It's not about you. I do this for them. I play for the city, for the franchise or whatever. You've got to have that pride that comes with it."

Double standard?


Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, on the perceived hypocrisy of teams but not players getting the benefit of the doubt regarding player movement: "The question I have, which is kind of bothering me sometimes, is when a player decides to decide his own fate, there is always a question about it. And, Why did this guy do that, do that and do this? When an organization decides to go elsewhere for a player, it's that they did what's best for the team. Let's figure that out sometime."

Not-so-festive mood

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, on his team's dreadful start: "I feel what the fans are feeling. The fans are dying, we're dying. We're out there, we're not producing. We didn't expect, I didn't expect to be sitting at 5-26. So as much as I feel for the fans, I feel for us going through it, too. I don't expect nobody to feel sorry for us, I don't expect nobody to feel sorry for me."

—Ben Bolch


Atlanta at Portland

When: 7 p.m. PST Saturday. TV: None.

Didn't foresee this as a matchup of division leaders when the NBA schedule was released? It's OK. No one did. It was easy to peg Portland as a contender in the Western Conference after the Trail Blazers' breakthrough 2013-14 season, but Atlanta has long felt like a forgotten child in the East. Perhaps no more. The frontcourt of Paul Millsap and Al Horford might be the most underrated in the league and sharpshooter Kyle Korver is averaging three made three-pointers a game. The Hawks showed they should be taken seriously when they stacked up recent victories over probable playoff teams Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and the Clippers in succession.

— Ben Bolch