Smush Parker was born in Newark, grew up bouncing around the five boroughs and honed his game on NYC playgrounds, including â€œThe Cageâ€ at the West Fourth Street Park in Manhattan.
He was known as â€œThe Grim Reaperâ€ â€” every time he went out on the court, he killed (to paraphrase Smush himself). Heâ€™s got the Grim Reaper tattoo to prove it.
Even if you didnâ€™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 heâ€™s got plenty of playground grit.
And the Lakers could use that out top â€” 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 Smushâ€™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. Heâ€™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 Smushâ€™s New York state of mind â€” 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 â€” the Lakers donâ€™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 â€” 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 â€” Smush seems pretty solid from about 18 feet and in, but iffy beyond that. That can work just fine for this Laker squad â€” they donâ€™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 youâ€™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 donâ€™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 â€” 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 â€” Hollywood has always had a fascination with the Grim Reaper.