Los Angeles Lakers: A Title for Joe Smith Cements Disappointing Career Legacy

Andre Khatchaturian@AndreKhatchCorrespondent IIIApril 5, 2011

12 Mar 1997: Forward Joe Smith of the Golden State Warriors looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. The Lakers won the game 109 - 101.
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Sixteen summers ago, in 1995, the Golden State Warriors passed up on guys like Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse and Antonio McDyess and selected Joe Smith as the No. 1-overall pick from the University of Maryland.

He put up several solid seasons with the Warriors before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. His numbers dropped considerably after the trade and he never recovered.

Years have passed since his glory days in college when he won College Player of the Year. He has now become one of the most infamous draft picks, completely failing to reach his potential.

But he finds himself on the bench of the Lakers in 2011.

The only times he plays are when the score is lopsided. He stands there and cheers for his teammates, just hoping they can deliver him a ring in June so that perhaps he can go into the sunset with something to be proud about.

In recent years when the Lakers won the championship, Adam Morrison was that guy to sit and never play. He won two rings and many jokes were made. Like Joe Smith, Morrison was a highly-renowned college player who never lived up to his potential.

However, Morrison can find solace in the fact that he's still young and can turn his career around and that he already has two rings. He can leave the game on a good note.

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Joe Smith, however, looks at a career marred with a failure to reach potential and some controversy.

Coupled with the fact that he never became the player the Warriors thought he would be was a situation in the early 2000s. He and then-general manager Kevin McHale of Minnesota agreed to give Smith a large pay cut, with a guarantee that he would get a larger contract in a few years in an effort to spend more money on other free agents short-term.

This was a loophole around the salary cap which the NBA eventually noticed, and they punished the Timberwolves' franchise, taking away three first-round draft picks and $3.5 million. These punishments crippled the Wolves for years to come.

After consecutive losing seasons, they are now finally starting to turn the corner with the prospects of Kevin Love.

Joe Smith's career sank into the bottom of the sea like the Timberwolves' did. He did not average more than 11 points per game and he was often a throw-in during deadline deals. He also found himself on pretty bad teams, until now.

Although he can do nothing about it, Joe Smith is hoping to root on his talented teammates en route to his first ring. He can always be seen on the Lakers bench with his training suit on giving Kobe and the rest of the team support during timeouts.

It's all he can do now to get the ring he covets so much, so that he can walk away from the game knowing at least something went right.