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.