Spurs Dump Charles Smith
SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ The San Antonio Spurs, tired of waiting for forward Charles Smith’s knee injury to heal, dumped the $4 million former New York Knicks star on Tuesday.
Smith, acquired midway through the 1995-96 season in a trade for J.R. Reid, Brad Lohaus and a first-round pick, was unceremoniously waived by the club.
``You know, you found out about the waiving before I did,″ Smith told the San Antonio Express-News. ``I didn’t get the decency of being told about it before the media. That’s how much regard they have for the players.
``I’m just a piece of furniture to them.″
Smith played in 32 games during his first season with San Antonio. A debilitating knee injury, described as ``bone on bone,″ forced him out of all but 17 games last season.
This year he was placed on the injured list prior to the season with osteoarthritis of the knee and has not played or practiced since before training camp.
``We felt that it was the appropriate time to waive him since it was obvious he would not be part of the team,″ general manager Gregg Popovich said.
Smith has a contract that pays him $3.9 million this season, $4 million next year and $4.5 million in 2000.
The sums will remain on the Spurs’ salary cap until the contract expires. However, it appears the Knicks actually will pay the bulk of the amount because of Smith’s medical problems, the Express-News reported.
The Spurs were delighted with Smith in the first weeks after the trade. They were 20-4 after acquiring him and Monty Williams in mid-February 1996.
But Smith’s knee didn’t hold up. Coach Bob Hill pulled him out of the 1996 playoff series against Utah because of his limited mobility.
Smith said he was embarrassed and motivated enough by that to spend the summer working to stabilize and strengthen the knee.
He was exuberant when he arrived in training camp prior to last season but the knee again broke down and he played in only four games before resuming therapy. He did not reappear until March 15 against Denver, when he played five minutes.
He got into angry exchanges with Popovich after a game in Phoenix last year and with teammate Avery Johnson after a game in Seattle.
Smith said he wants to play again.
``This is not the last you’ve heard of me,″ he said. ``Being waived is not a concern at all. The bottom line is no doctor can tell you whether you can or cannot play. I’ll do what I want when the time comes.″
Popovich said the Spurs have treated Smith with all due respect during his tenure with the club.
``Charles has been treated first-class, with patience and the best medical care since he arrived in this town by this organization and every person associated with it,″ Popovich said.