Jan 13

If The Gucci Loafer Fits, Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith Will Wear It

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, CraigSmith, geraldwallace, Pelicans, KurtThomas, LaMarcusAldridge, MarcusCamby, NicolasBatum, Rockets, Spurs
Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith were the last Trail Blazers to leave the locker room after Portland’s 98-78 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers January 8 at the Rose Garden.  As Thomas headed toward the exits, he made a quick stop at Smith’s locker in an effort to thwart a potential disaster in the making. Smith was slowly tending to the last few buttons on his shirt when Thomas pointed down at a pair of black and white Gucci loafers placed neatly on the carpet.

“You need to call me when you’re going to wear those,” deadpanned Thomas, staring down at the shoes that, in a few moments, would be affixed to the hooves of Portland’s Rhino. “I almost wore those tonight.”

“Alright O.G.!” said Smith, a fitting response to a 16-year veteran who also happens oldest player in the NBA.

Though neither knew it at the time, that brief exchange, the purpose of which was meant to prevent a fashion faux pas, would foreshadow a predicament the Trail Blazers now find themselves in after Marcus Camby went down Friday night with a left ankle sprain. Both Thomas and Smith will now have the same big shoes to fill, but this time they’re Camby’s, not Gucci’s.

Not that either scenario was exactly unforeseen. Just as Gucci’s, Jordan’s, Creative Recreation’s and lowtop Converse’s are common place in NBA locker rooms, so too are injuries. It’s one of the reasons NBA players have entire closets stacked with boxes of shoes. And it’s the same reason the Trail Blazers signed both Thomas and Smith as free agents in the truncated run-up to the 2011-12 season. You need options to make it in the NBA and big men, like shoes, are similar in one very important way: you can never have too many of them.

The decision makers in Portland’s front office will probably poke around the free agent pile to see who might be available for the right price as they wait for Camby to return to the lineup. That might mean checking in on former Trail Blazers Joel Przybilla and Rasheed Wallace (I’ll let you ascertain which of those names is more likely than the other) but at this juncture, it feels as though the team is going to ride with Thomas, Smith and Chris Johnson for the foreseeable future. Part of it is necessity – any player brought in at this point would have to work himself into game shape, which is probably a two-week turnaround – while the other part is doing right by Thomas and Smith. Both came to Portland with the understanding that they’d have a chance to play rather than simply collect a check by virtue of being a warm body.

“I felt the opportunity was going to come for me,” said Thomas, who cited the likelihood of playing meaningful minutes as one of the main reasons he chose Portland over a host of other destinations. “If I could just stay healthy, I felt the opportunity would be there for me to get some minutes on the floor.”

That opportunity has arisen, though the circumstances are not what anyone would have preferred. That is especially true for Camby, who was experiencing somewhat of a renaissance through the first ten games of the season.

“We have a lot of bigs that are going to have the opportunity to play and show what they got,” said a dejected Camby after Friday night’s loss to the Spurs. “Guys have been working hard at practice, so now they are going to get the opportunity. So, hopefully they can make the best of the opportunity.”

No one is expecting the same production at the center position from Thomas, Smith, Johnson or even LaMarcus Aldridge, who is likely to shift over to the five for extended minutes in a small lineup with Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum at power and small forward, respectively, but this team has played far too well to throw in the towel on 2011-12 because Camby’s sidelined. Don’t forget the Trail Blazers went 11-5 last season, with a team featuring less talent than the one scheduled to face the Rockets Saturday, after Camby underwent minor knee surgery to repair a partial meniscus tear in his left knee.

The Trail Blazers may in fact find they need reinforcements at center until Camby returns, but in the interim, they can shoehorn Thomas and Smith in the rotation. They may not be the Gucci of NBA bigmen, but they could end up fitting just the same.


  1. Casey:
    I think our bigs will do OK. that is why we got them. I don't think they can replace Camby, but they can keep the load of from Aldridge.
    Thomas in the starting five gives us another scorer down low and he can help keep the heat off LMA. Smith is a decent big body on the second unit.

    Not that Camby's injury won't be felt by all of us, we will prevail.

    by Hg on 1/14/2012 8:05 AM
  2. Casey, I'd even be in favor of putting Thomas in the starting lineup so that Gerald can continue to play the wing and get out on the break. If Nate were to put Nic in and GW at the 4 w/LA at the 5, that to me would hinder their ability to run the floor in transition.

    by blazerdarren77 on 1/14/2012 10:51 AM
  3. @blazerdarren77:
    With Batum, Wallace, Wesley and LMA including Raymond that gives us a lot of running abilities. In fact if we were concerned, we could put Batum at the four.

    I have a feeling we will see both.

    by Hg on 1/14/2012 11:14 AM
  4. Kurt seemed really "off" to me last night. It could have been the jinx I put on him by proclaiming him to be my payer of the game earlier on in the day (won't happen again buddy!) His passes weren't crisp and he seemed unsure what to do out there. I hope it was just an off night, because we need to use him. When LA goes out, the pick and pop with him on the receiving end needs to be our main weapon. I'd like to see him shoot that shot at least 5 times a night, because he's automatic!

    by DHawes22 on 1/14/2012 11:29 AM
  5. first of all, Casey, that expression on Kurt's face in the photo matches the headline perfectly!

    i don't think it's time to panic on Marcus' injury. the x-rays were negative and the swelling isn't that bad (facts you may not been aware of when you wrote this. the good thing is that we can cover both the center and pf positions with the personnel we have. with LaMarcus and Chris available to back up Kurt, and with Crash, the Rhino and Vader's Boy (Luke) to cover pf, i'm not too concerned ... as long as we stay healthy.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/14/2012 10:06 PM
  6. Funny you should mention that Kass, as I have yet to come across a picture on Getty in which Kurt isn't making some kind of strange face. Usually stemming from the crazy eye look.

    by caseyholdahl on 1/14/2012 10:55 PM
  7. Ha ha...ribbit

    Great blog

    by Bull Frog on 1/14/2012 10:59 PM
  8. The Gucci's are great. Smith really showed he can do some good things. O.G. aka Kurt Thomas has been good his whole career. When we play team ball, guys that are role players or front court defenders get their chance. I think both can make an impact while Marcus is out. Thank goodness we're hopeful on having him back soon. Rasheed or Joel (both I wish, would be so cool, not possible i know) could take some of the pressure and minutes off LaMarcus while still making good plays on the floor. Great blog.

    by Bull Frog on 1/14/2012 11:06 PM
  9. it's like he's almost embarrassed, but at the same time, saying "what are you gonna do about it?!"

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/15/2012 1:17 AM
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