The Grim Reaper

Kurt —  October 19, 2005

Smush Parker was born in Newark, grew up bouncing around the five boroughs and honed his game on NYC playgrounds, including “The Cage” at the West Fourth Street Park in Manhattan.

He was known as “The Grim Reaper” — every time he went out on the court, he killed (to paraphrase Smush himself). He’s got the Grim Reaper tattoo to prove it.

Even if you didn’t know that about him, you could have guessed it after watching him for a few minutes on an NBA court. Smush is not NBA polished, but he’s got plenty of playground grit.

And the Lakers could use that out top — they need someone who is tenacious on defense, who will slow down Steve Nash and get in the face of Tony Parker or Barron Davis. They need a little New York attitude.

After looking like he might become the latest addition to a long list of NYC playground legends who never made it in the NBA, Smush is getting his big chance 3,000 miles from those playgrounds, in a town that lacks a reputation for toughness but where its basketball stars have always been nails (from West through Kobe.)

To Smush’s credit he has worked to be more than a playground powerhouse for years. He played his senior year of high school ball in Queens, two years of JC ball in Idaho (talk about culture shock) and then a season at Fordham. He’s played 82 NBA games since the start of the 02-03 season, plus spent time in the NDBL and in Greece.

Time overseas and in the minors has not changed Smush’s New York state of mind — which is why Phil Jackson has mentioned him as a starter and Laker fans who have seen him have taken a liking to him. He plays hard on defense and is fearless — the Lakers don’t need him to be a stopper, just slow down the points and funnel them toward the two seven footers along the baseline.

But if Smush is going to stick, he needs to pick his spots on offense. Last season with Detroit, Smush shot just 27.8% on jump shots. His rookie year in Cleveland, when he played in 66 games, he shot just 37.8% on jumpers. He is a career 31.3% three point shooter.

Smush has shown he can do better than that — in the Summer Pro League he had an eFG% of 55.6% but shot just 28.6% from three-point range, which led to 17.9 points per 40 minutes and a good 1.33 points per shot attempt. In the first three preseason games the numbers are similar: an eFG% of 54.2%, but 18.2% from three point range.

My perception, based on watching him in five games and the statistics — Smush seems pretty solid from about 18 feet and in, but iffy beyond that. That can work just fine for this Laker squad — they don’t need him to score.

Smush: Stay away from the three ball, take the midrange when you get it, penetrate when you can and finish on breaks and you’ll get some points and be very efficient on offense. Combine that with some in-your-face, Fourth Street Park defense and you can fit in with these Lakers. (And don’t worry about fouls, with McKie playing key late-game minutes behind you, a few fouls are no concern.)

This is a Laker team full of second chances — they are looking for players they can build and grow with. Staples Center is a long way from Queens, but Smush has a chance to do that here.

One this is for sure, he will be a fan favorite — Hollywood has always had a fascination with the Grim Reaper.

to The Grim Reaper

  1. Agree totally, wrote a very similar article last week in my Laker blog.
    Smush had a tough night defensively against Arenas, Sprewell talk has picked back up, I’d prefer Smush off the bench as the defensive stopper. However, if he goes to the bench behind spree he likely becomes 3rd string to Aaron Mckie, in danger of getting cut.


  2. I’m looking forward to seeing Smush in action.
    However – Any thoughts on Felipe Lopez being available?


  3. if smush is a better than average defender, his overall affect on the laker numbers wouldn’t be as high as if atkins was still in the position, would it? i mean if you’re taking into account chucky’s offense.

    hopefully smush can shoot a bit when he gets some open looks. even if he can’t, he’d stll be a nice asset.

    last time phil took over, the team’s offensive ppg didn’t change, there was only a dramatic improvement in the defensive numbers. i don’t know, it looks like this time around the offense will suffer a bit with butler and atkins gone.


  4. john, the offense will certainly be different from las tyear’s, but take it as a good thing. While Butler was anjoyable to watch, truth is, he brought nothing new to the table. No variety at all.

    And Atkins… No defense at all with a shoot first-attitude while playing PG. How many games did Atkins cost us? Maybe this year we will see more play down low.

    Getting the ball to Kwame and Mihm, must be a priority, forcing the double team to happen and therefore allowing Kobe to have more room (instead of shooting with 2 guys around him with 0.5secs of the shot clock left). This is why a defensive player at PG can work with this offense.

    Like Kurt said, if Smush slows down the star PG’s of this league, then he will be doing his job, as he only must push the ball upcourt and get it down-low. Eventually he could benefit from the picks made at middle-range and nail around 8 or 10 points in open jumpers + fast break points.

    One other thing that everyone seems to forget, is the mismatch that Odom causes while playing at SF. Using the triangle, you can have Odom placed in the corner of the strong side, make the ball change sides and then feed the ball to Odom down-low after he benefits from the pick made by either Mihm or Kwame near the rim(whoever is on the strong side). And if the defense switches on the pick, then you’ll have either Kwame or Mihm guarded by a SF 4 feet away from the rim…

    So, since we will be scoring from down-low, who needs 16 PPG from the PG with an awefull FG%??

    Maybe the Lakers will keep the same PPG, but since they will be palying much closer to the basket, I bet you that the FG% will increase significantly, and to me, that’s all that matters. More points per possession.


  5. Kurt,

    Why is the LA Times stealing your thunder! Another reason not to read it!


  6. Brian, Lopez hasn’t played in the league since 2002. I’ll stick with the devil I know.

    Zach, I saw that yesterday (actually, I was blind copied on an LA Times announcement of the blog). The more I thought about it, here’s my real question (and this may end up in a post): Why does the LA Times, which has a full-time beat writer plus a herd of columnists, need to hire two outside people to write a blog to provide interesting Laker coverage?


  7. By the way Renato, I want to see what the offense looks like in the last couple of preseason games and into the season, but in the first game Odom was really at the top of the triangle and not in the corner much. I have to think that will change because he is such a mismatch (and you can have him cut to the corner from the top off a pick) but in game one he stayed on the perimeter.


  8. The presentation of the blog on the Times website is a curious thing. Did anyone else notice the three players on the blog link? Kobe, Caron Butler, and, I think, Laron Profit?


  9. That is a good question Kurt. Newspapers are complaining about people not buying their papers, but if they would fill it with interesting stuff, not stuf that is normal, but articles that you can’t get anywhere else, wouldn’t that be an incentive for them.

    They have two beat writers, but also two other columnists that take their own shots, or try to stir it up when there is nothing else to write.


  10. Mainstream media’s use of blogging now seems really forced and artificial. MSNBC, CNN, CNET, ESPN, ABC, etc. are all “blogging” now, but it seems more like they’re just writing articles, running them through an editor, and publishing as they always have, but they’re just throwing it into a blog style. Which gets to Kurt’s question about why they need to hire new guys to do this…

    I’ve dug Smush since he came out with the Cav’s – more to do with his nickname and the fact I pimped him out on NBA Live back then rather than his game. The more I see him, the more I like him though, he definitely plays with some grit. While I hate the fact that he’s potentially the Lakers’ starting PG, I do like that he’s on the team and think he’d make a good backup if he kept up the defensive intensity.


  11. Smush is a great player, you guys need to open your eyes, it will show this season…..a regular smush stat line is 16-20ppg 4-6rpg 4-6 apg 2-3spg & 3-5 to’s…..he will become the lakers 2nd scoring option behind kobe….trust me…..yes I’m from ny, lil biased…..but an expert in basktball


  12. I knew nothing about Smush and his background, and after watching him in the pre-season and in the first 3 games he by far is my fav on the team. He has heart, he hustles and with a name like Smush, you cant help but like the guy! Smush it up Lakers!


  13. I don’t know where you come off saying Smush Parker is not NBA polished.

    He has already proven in the first four games that he is a reliable player for the Lakers. He can play good defense (ripped Nash twice); knows how to create his own shot; goes hard to the rim; can hit the three-ball; can run the fast-break.

    And I can’t believe you’re trying to tell Smush how to play his game. This ridiculousness is uncalled for.

    Smush is the real deal. He has NBA game.




  15. Whoo, hindsight is 20/20, as they say. The fan favorite part made me laugh out loud. It’s a shame he didn’t work out though, as he does have talent, but just hasn’t been able to maintain a consistent focus that’s required to be successful in the Association.