The Clippers have traded forward Josh Smith to his former team, the Houston Rockets, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. Los Angeles will also send cash to cover his salary for the season while the Rockets will only send back the draft rights to 30-year-old Maarty Leunen and 33-year-old Serhiy Lishchuk. The move reduces the Clippers' luxury tax bill by roughly $1.4 million.
Smith spent part of last season with the Rockets after being waived for the Pistons. He was reasonably productive in a small role and gave the team quality minutes in the playoffs. Despite his solid play, the front office decided to go in a different direction in the offseason and Smith signed for the minimum with the Clippers.
Smith initially earned a role in Los Angeles as back up center but never really regained the level he showed in Houston. He averaged six points and four rebounds in his time with the team and clashed with the coaching staff. As a result, he lost his spot in the rotation. After a string of games in which he didn't play he recently got some minutes due to the absence of both Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but once Jordan returned he went back to the deep bench.
For the Rockets this is a low-risk move. They get back a player that worked fine in their system last season without giving anything of value away. Their big man rotation could use more depth, as Donatas Motiejunas is still playing his way back into shape after missing the first 20 games of the season while recovering from surgery and rookie Montrezl Harrell is still too raw to get regular minutes. If things don't work out, they can always waive Smith.
It's not surprising that Smith was traded, as it was obvious he was not helping the Clippers. The fact that they had to give him away for free marks the latest chapter on a sad descent for a player that not long ago was a borderline All-Star. He will now get another chance to get his career back on track in the last place in which he made positive contributions.
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