Josh Smith did things backwards in his debut with the Rockets, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle; his first game came before his first practice. After being signed Friday morning, Smith was thrown into the fire quickly against the Grizzlies. He delivered 21 points and eight rebounds as Houston won in overtime. On Saturday, he got his first workout with his new team. “When you’re a professional and you’ve played a lot of years like myself, it’s not that hard especially when you know a lot of the guys in the locker room,” said Smith, who was waived Monday by the Pistons. “They helped me out when I was kind of lost out there on the floor. They helped me along the way to get me through those situations.”
There’s much more from the Western Conference:
- The addition of Smith, combined with the trade that brought Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved from the Timberwolves, has transformed the Rockets from a shallow team to a deep one, Feigen notes. Houston got 48 points off the bench in Memphis, and although Smith’s total figured into that, the bench should remain potent even if he becomes a starter. A return from injury by Terrence Jones, which coach Kevin McHale estimates in four to six weeks, could fortify the second unit — or it could provide GM Daryl Morey with more trade ammunition.
- Kawhi Leonard is the key to the Spurs‘ title hopes, opines Stephen Babb of Bleacher Report, which is why they need his injured right hand to heal as quickly as possible. Leonard tore a ligament in the hand December 9th, and the team has struggled in his absence. “He can’t move his hand,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He can’t catch and dribble and that kind of stuff. Medically, they don’t think he can hurt it any more, so that’s good. So it’s just a matter of can he get used to the hand.”
- The Lakers‘ Nick Young has stopped joking that the team will be fine without the injured Kobe Bryant, reports Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. After shooting 6 for 22 from the field in the past two games without the injured star, Young was contrite. “We’re always going to need Kobe out there on the floor, especially for players like me,” said Young. “That releases a lot of pressure.”