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Josh Smith is Not Complaining about his Salary

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Josh Smith has been unjustly grilled by the media for comments he made at the Clippers' press conference about family hardship.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the introduction of new and returning players at the Clippers’ press conference, Josh Smith has gotten some flak for comments he made at about the 14 minute mark. Specifically, he noted that "[i]t wasn’t about the money because of the Detroit situation. But at the end of the day, you know, I do have a family. So, it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it and try to do long-term after this year. But I think, this year, focusing on doing something special with this group of guys – we have the opportunity to do something special. Right now, this is what I want to focus on."

Some press outlets have interpreted this quote to be Josh Smith crying poverty regarding his salary. Others have somewhat defendedJosh Smith by noting that he is in fact making less money than he had expected to when he signed with Detroit. Yet when breaking the quote down, it does not seem that Josh Smith was actually channeling his best Latrell Sprewell impression about feeding his family.

First, Josh Smith’s comment about his family wasn’t specifically referencing money. It referenced having a "long-term" deal. Ask any player and they’ll tell you about the strains that constant travelling has on their families. Josh Smith experiences that already when he’s on the road for games. Now, with a one year deal, Josh Smith will probably also miss his family when he plays "home games". Without long term stability, there’s no reason for him to uproot his family and move them to Los Angeles. So yes, playing on a one year deal can be hard for a family.

Secondly, Smith did take less money to play with Clippers — about $500,000 less if I understand Larry Coon's explanation correctly. Specifically:

"If another team signs a player who has cleared waivers, the player's original team is allowed to reduce the amount of money it still owes the player (and lower their team salary) by a commensurate amount. This is called the right of set off. This is true if the player signs with any professional team: it does not have to be an NBA team. The amount the original team gets to set off is limited to one-half the difference between the player's new salary and the minimum salary for a one-year veteran (if the player is a rookie, then the rookie minimum is used instead).

For example, suppose a fifth-year player is waived with one guaranteed season remaining on his contract for $5 million. If this player signs a $1 million contract with another team for the 2011-12 season, his original team gets to set off $1 million minus $762,195 (the minimum salary for a one-year veteran in 2011-12), divided by two, or $118,902. The team is still responsible for paying $4,881,098 of the original $5 million. Note that between his prior team and new team the player will earn a combined $5,881,098, which was more than he earned prior to being waived."

Smith was owed $5.4 million this year. He signed for the veteran minimum with the Clippers. That brought his total to $6.9 million. If he signed Houston’s non bird offer of $2.49 million, he would be a little under $1 million over the minimum. Then he would’ve lost about $500,000 in salary from Detroit. If Josh Smith actually cared about money (which he already stated in his interview that he wasn’t prioritizing), Smith could’ve stayed in Houston and made more.

So what happened? It’s probably a mixture of misunderstanding and modern media. Smith’s comments weren’t exactly clear so there is room for interpretation about what he actually meant. This doesn’t bode well for him when his reputation around the Association is mixed with some people viewing Smith as negative locker room presence. Finally, it is worth remembering that in modern media, "clickbait" is a real problem. Sites and blogs are all competing for traffic in order to drive advertisement revenue. It’s sort of like being Rick Rolled by misleading YouTube videos. Thus it shouldn’t come as a shock that some articles may be willing to push more "interesting" headlines than what actually exists.