The Rhino Waits For No One
By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, Clippers, CraigSmith, Hawks, Kings, KurtThomas, LaMarcusAldridge, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Spurs, Warriors
Eighteen seconds, eight seconds, forty-one seconds, fifteen seconds. These are not the average attention spans of American teenagers or the timing of the traffic signals on West Burnside. Those numbers are actually the amount of time it has taken for Craig "The Rhino" Smith to put up his first shot after checking in during the last four games versus the Grizzlies, Kings, Pistons and Raptors (update:
in Wednesday night's loss to the Warriors, Smith took his first shot 48 seconds after checking in). In all four of those games, Smith took a shot on Portland's first offensive possession after his number was called by Coach Nate McMillan. When "The Rhino" gets in the game, he's looking to get buckets.
And why shouldn't he? At 55 percent, Smith shoots the second highest percentage from the field behind Kurt Thomas, and is first on the team in points per shot. But more important than percentage is his role. Smith often provides rest for LaMarcus Aldridge, the team's leading shot taker and maker, so it makes sense for "The Rhino" to come into games looking to fill that role on offense, even though he's looking to make an impact on the other end of the floor first.
"On the defensive end I think it starts and it helps us offensively," said Smith. "If we're able to get stops I think we can get anything we want offensively, as long as we share the ball and run whatever we need to run. I think it starts with defense first, my aggressiveness and then when it turns to offense, if I've got the opportunity, I'm going to score.
And score he has. Smith's steady increase in minutes over the last seven games has led to a corresponding increase in his point production. Smith has tallied 18 points in the last two days in victories against the Kings and Grizzlies after scoring just 18 points in his first 11 games as a Trail Blazer.
"Trying to run people over, terrorize the court," said Smith, playing up his rhino credentials. "Just trying to be aggressive out there and just spread some energy out there while the starters are getting their rest."
A steady increase in minutes is likely to continue as McMillan becomes more and more comfortable running with "The Rhino."
"(Craig Smith) gives us a balance, a big that can give us some offense in the post," said McMillan. " We're short with both he and Kurt (Thomas) out there, but he plays bigger. We've been pretty solid with him being out there, so yeah, i'm trying to get as many minutes (on the bench) for LaMarcus as possible when I go to that rotation. But he has experience, he knows how to play, he's familiar with these guys he's going up against."
It can be difficult scoring off the bench in the NBA. Some players, by virtue of their roles as backups, tend to differ to starters or "scorers" when it comes to taking shots. That can really muck up the works when the bench is in the game, as we've seen at times this season. That doesn't seem to be an issue now that Smith is getting regular minutes.
"You've got to take advantage," said Smith. "You can't just try to be satisfied and wait for opportunities. If you're aggressive you're actually helping the ball club, so that's what I'm trying to do."
And he's doing a fine job of it.