Josh Smith’s clarification serves as lesson in jumping to conclusions

I’m not sure if you know this, but the internet can be a dangerous place when it comes to knee jerk reactions and wildly misguided conclusions. It’s a reality that constantly has me second guessing society and internally chastising whoever invented the post-story comments section.

Naturally, last week, it was apparently my turn to pass premature judgment on a figure for which I had no firsthand connection when I was critical of former Pistons forward Josh Smith following an introductory press conference with the Clippers where, seemingly regarding the prospect of only making $6.9 million this season, he stated:

“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, you know.”

I was skeptical, so I watched an actual video of the presser, where it was revealed he prefaced his comments with “It was never about the money because of the Detroit situation” (a reference to the $5.4 million the Pistons will owe Smith each year until 2019). Even then, I couldn’t resist piggybacking off the already-in-progress internet witch hunt by assuming his comments about his family were, in fact, about the money.

Smith attempted to set the record straight this past Thursday when he published a clarification piece on The Players’ Tribune, an online literary platform for athletes, founded by Kalamazoo native Derek Jeter.

“The whole thing about it being ‘harder on me’ comes down to family,” he said. “It seems obvious to me, but maybe I could have said it more clearly. If you know the NBA, you know that moving to a new team is a decision that affects an athlete’s whole family. That’s even more true when you’re signing a one-year deal. With a one-year deal, there’s less stability because you know you might be moving again in a year.”

His explanation makes sense. Following nine years of stability in Atlanta, Smith uprooted and signed with the Pistons in the summer of 2013. After being waived by Detroit last December, he moved on to Houston, where he played a half season with the Rockets before becoming a free agent and signing a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Depending upon a multitude of factors, Smith could find himself in another city this time next year. That’d be five major cities in a shade under four years. Constant travel and settling in to new environments is the accepted and expected cost of being a multi-millionaire professional athlete, but it doesn’t mean it’s not taxing for the families forced to reestablish their entire lives at each new stop.

It was an undoubted rush to judgment by many, present company included, as we sat waiting for another means of providing criticism of an athlete whose on-court Q-rating was sub-zero by the time he left metro Detroit. After enough ill-advised jumpers, forced bounce passes through traffic, and slow moving coast-to-coast attempts resulting in awkward right-to-left sweeping layup push shots from 13 feet out, Smith’s on-court antics suddenly began to meld with his off-court persona. Understandable? Sure. Fair? Not so much.

Having lived through the Latrell Sprewell situation, it’s easy to assume the worst when it comes to athletes and perspective regarding their monetary advantages over the other 99.9% percent. In the case of Josh Smith, his comments serve as yet another lesson in the oftentimes unfair impulse to jump to conclusions.