D-League Digest first reported that the Erie BayHawks would waive Chris Smith this morning. The BayHawks made the move official this afternoon, and Smith is now in the D-League free agent pool. I don't know the reason for the move. Erie made some trades recently, so perhaps there's a strategic basis to the decision, though part of me wonders if the BayHawks felt relieved of obligation to keep a Knick's brother around after it leaked that the Knicks plan to foster a separate, organic D-League affiliate. Oh! Here's the reason coming out as I write this:
Chris Smith had several run-ins with the BayHawks coaching staff, which contributed to the decision to release him, sources tell ESPN NY.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 4, 2014
Before Erie released Chris Smith today, he had packed up and left team several days ago, source tells Yahoo. Didn't like his playing time.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) March 4, 2014
That sucks. Anyway, the news has me reflecting on Chris Smith and how emblematic he's been of recent Knicks culture. As a basketball player, Chris Smith never mattered. He joined the Knicks in Summer League and training camp in 2012, then badly injured his knee, obviating any organizational decision about long-term commitment. After a year of rehab, he came right back, playing very poorly in Summer League, then getting an undeserved training camp invite, then actually making the 15-man roster. The league investigated to make sure the signing was not some sort of violation. Smith didn't play at all through the first few weeks of the season, then the Knicks assigned him to Erie in mid-November. In mid-December, after the Knicks suffered some injuries and after Smith had some genuinely productive games as a BayHawk, the Knicks called him up. Smith played 1:57 of garbage time in two games as a Knick, then they
betrayed waived him right before the new year. The BayHawks picked him back up, voluntarily this time, or at least not on any official assignment. And now this.
So, Chris Smith was never anything to the Knicks as a team of basketball-playing basketball players. His impact was felt more as a placeholder than as an athlete, because his presence obstructed opportunities for more deserving players. Still, Smith is an icon of the Knicks as a franchise. If scientists found a way to isolate the Knicks' essence, then synthesize human DNA out of it, Chris Smith would be the resulting person. Also, those scientists would go to jail forever. And that's not on him. It's not Chris Smith's fault the Knicks valued the 26 year-old, woefully under-skilled little brother of one of their semi-important players over dozens (hundreds?) of superior candidates, but the fact that they did is demonstrative of so many things wrong with the organization.
The Knicks prefer a name to a player. They'd rather pull strings than make simple, sound decisions. They misplace trust and loyalty, then money and minutes. They lack shame and learn not from their mistakes. Chris Smith, through no fault of his own, became the mascot for that Knicks culture this season. He just got cut by a D-League team.