The most infamous and probably oddest part of Joe Smith’s career dealt with the off the court scandal in Minnesota when he and the Timberwolves were caught by the NBA trying to circumvent the salary cap rules. In 2000, the NBA levied fines and took draft picks away from the Timberwolves after they learned that then General Manager Kevin McHale arranged an under the table deal with Joe Smith and his representatives to sign small, one year contracts for three consecutive years, with promises of more money and a long term contract at the completion of the third one year contract. This arrangement would have provided the Timberwolves more available money under the cap to sign other free agents until signing the long term contract they promised to Joe Smith after the 3 years.
The NBA voided Joe’s contract for that season which made it possible for him to sign with Detroit that year as a free agent. Apparently, there wasn’t any bad blood with the organization because after his one year with Detroit he returned to Minnesota the following season.
At the very least, Joe brings a big body as insurance to the Lakers in the event Bynum or any other big guy goes down this season; he also brings veteran leadership and experience. If he is needed to play Joe can hit a mid range jumper and will not baby the ball around the rim either. Josh Powell, he is not because he will throw it down hard when putting the ball back up; he just needs room and little resistance at this point of his career.
You never how these pick ups of savvy veterans will turn out. The Lakers have had success with similar veteran acquisition in that past during championship years such as Brian Shaw, Ron Harper and AC Green’s second stint with the Lakers. You saw two years ago how much PJ Brown helped the Boston Celtics in a small reserve role off the bench in their 2008 championship season. Conversely, there have been some veteran players that the Lakers acquired that weren’t so memorable, such as Mitch Richmond, Aaron Mckie and Jim Jackson.
By coming on board to a team destined for a 3rd straight championship, this is definitely Joe’s chance to make a noteworthy mark in his career and to separate his name from the large pool of people that bare the same name. As Laker fans, we should get behind that idea and hope that he can turn an ordinary name of Joe Smith into something that we’ll soon find synonymous with a game winning shot or a champion season. Hopefully it will trigger great memories in the same way when someone says the name Robert Horry.