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Smush Parker Back to LA?

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When Ralph announced early in the Clippers-Heat game on Monday that the Heat had waived Smush Parker, I had a feeling I knew where this was going.  Since he was still under contract with the Heat on March 1, he's ineligible to play in the postseason with another team.  That means that if he wants to play this season and start rehabbing his reputation now, it will certainly not be with any team that has a chance to make the playoffs.  That leaves only about 9 or 10 teams.  And of those teams, the Clippers or the Knicks seem to be the places where he could get some playing time.  Sure enough, Jonathan Abrams reports in this morning's LA Times that the Clippers are interested.

From the Clippers' perspective, the interest is obvious.  They currently have three point guards on their roster, none of them over 6'0" tall.  Oh, and did I mention that one is from the D-League and the other two were waived by their last NBA team?  Parker is 6'4" and was the starting point guard for a playoff team for the last two seasons.   It's worth noting that Parker commanded a bigger contract from the supposedly contending Heat (2/$4.6M) than Brevin Knight got from the Clippers (2/$4M) last summer.  It's obvious that he has the potential to help this team win a few more games down the stretch.

Of course, that's not really the goal here, is it?  The real question is can he be a part of the rotation next season?  And do the Clippers want him to be?  The Miami valet altercation is more than a little bizarre.  Going back to the original incident, he seemed like a dick, but even if you take the woman's story verbatim, there's no felony here.  The police report said he grabbed the woman's arm.  Whoa.  Pat Riley put him on the inactive list supposedly until the investigation was complete, but here we are over three month later and no charges have ever been filed.  It's pretty clear that Riles had problems with Smush that went beyond his lack of courtesy around parking valets, despite his assertions to the contrary.

Signing him for the remainder of this season would allow the Clippers to give Smush a test drive, and vice versa.  The 08-09 point guard depth chart currently has Shaun Livingston and Brevin Knight - and while I'm an optimist where Livingston is concerned, Joe Stevens actually gets paid to write about this stuff, and he told us yesterday "If the organization believes that either he or Brevin Knight could lead this team to the playoffs as the No. 1 point guard next season, it will be dead wrong."  Sobering words.  Still, it's hard to figure how Smush Parker is the starter.  Aren't we talking about a backup role in the best case scenario?

Smush's career is about as unlikely as any player in the NBA.  He was a playground legend when former NBA Coach Bob Hill convinced him to try playing college basketball while he was the head coach at Fordham.  After one season with the Rams, he declared for the 2002 draft but went undrafted.  He signed with Cleveland and stuck that first season.  But he was waived by the Hawks in training camp in 2003, and spent a year playing in Greece.  He played in 11 games for the Pistons and 5 for the Suns in 04-05.  Then, out of nowhere, he earned the starting job for the Lakers in training camp in 2005.  Granted, they had basically no other options at the point, but here was a guy who had played 144 minutes in the prior two seasons suddenly starting next to Kobe Bryant.  He went from the starter for Thessaloniki to the starter for the Lakers in a couple seasons.  For the former playground baller, it appeared to be the ultimate redemption story.  

Eventually of course he got on the wrong side of coach Phil Jackson and by the 2007 playoffs was backing up rookie Jordan Farmar and playing 10 minutes a game.  In fact, just as amazing as his rise to NBA starter is his subsequent fall.  He was the starter for 162 consecutive regular season games and seven playoff games in 2006 - he lost his starting job on April 15 2007 (with the Lakers still not guaranteed a playoff spot), was off the team a couple months later, and has been essentially out of the league since November.  Wow.

And how about this screw you from Riley?  If they had waived him by March 1, he would have had a chance to sign with a contender and maybe get into the post-season.  But no, the Heat waited an extra 9 days before waiving him, just to make sure he didn't see any playoff action.  Of course, it's pretty clear that Smush is keeping all of that $4.6M they paid him.  That works out to over $25,000 per MINUTE he played for the Heat.  

So to the question of the moment:  should the Clippers sign him?  There's very little downside involved.  Andre Barrett is on a 10 day - they'd have to let him go in order to sign Smush since they roster is at it's maximum 15 currently.  It's also worth noting that Barrett's first 10 day contract was signed March 10, it's currently March 12, and there's been no news of a second 10 day contract.  If Barrett isn't on the bench tonight, it will be a pretty strong indication of what the Clippers are doing.  (Former first round pick Gerald Green is also on the waive wire - if the Clippers wanted to take a chance on him AND Smush, they'd have to free up another roster spot.  I'd vote for keeping Nick Fazekas and waiving Aaron Williams.  We know Williams is done as a Clipper, and he has rarely been healthy enough to play this season anyway.  He's currently got an abdominal strain, which at his age should be feeling a little better by May.)  

But I'm not real sure what the upside is with Smush.  Forget about the next 20 games - we don't want to win those anyway.  So you bring him in if you think he can help next year, and if by bringing him in now you get a head start on finding out.  Do we think he'll be a better 'big' option at the point than Shaun Livingston next season?  If so, FSM help us all.  Do we like him better as a backup than Brevin Knight?  Well, at least he can shoot.

Coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. is a Brooklyn native.  And what do you know, Smush played high school ball in Queens and playground ball in Brooklyn.  I'm betting that MDsr thinks he can 'change' Smush (they all do).  He'll probably join the Clippers within a day or so.