Steinmetz: Sans No. 1 stigma, Smith’s good

Let’s get right to it. More observations while watching the NBA playoffs:

» If you could somehow just consider Joe Smith as a player — and take out of the equation the No. 1 overall pick thing — it would be hard to come to any other conclusion except that he’s one heck of a role player.

And I mean that in the best way.

The guy has fit in on every team he’s played for (whether starting or coming off the bench), can knock down a face-up jumper as well as any power forward in the league, rebounds pretty well for the minutes he plays and defends at least average, if not above.

Now with Cleveland — his ninth team — Smith can post up occasionally, and he’s never been an attitude problem or malcontent. He shoots pretty well from the field in this day and age (45.6 percent), is just less than 80 percent from the line and has been mostly durable during his 13-year career.

It wasn’t his fault he went No. 1 in 1995. Had he gone 16th, he would have been a find.

» I’ll say this for Boston’s Rajon Rondo … it can’t be easy to play alongside Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, two of whom are strong personalities. He’s 22 years old and isn’t a true point guard.

Sure, he’s no Chris Paul, Tony Parker or Deron Williams. But all things considered, he’s doing a nice job.

» It’s no crime and it happens to everyone, but you always lose the matchup to Father Time. You might get him early in your career and defy him late, but in the end he gets you.

And right now, F-Time is putting it to Sam Cassell.

» By not turning the ball over, rebounding well and consistently playing in the halfcourt, the Cavaliers have limited the Celtics’ possessions. For the series, the Celtics are averaging just 71 shots per game. Consider the Warriors this season averaged 90 shots per game.

It seems virtually impossible, if this trend continues, for all three Celtics (Garnett, Pierce and Allen) to get into any kind of offensive rhythm at the same time. At this rate, they would be lucky to get two.

» I suppose we’ll find out if one dunk can change a series. LeBron James’ windmill late in Cleveland’s Game 4 win over the Celtics on Monday wasn’t just nasty, it seemed to signify a definitive shift in momentum in the series. We’ll see come Game 5 in Boston.

» Certainly, former centers such as Jack Sikma, Bill Laimbeer and even Robert Parish must be scoffing at the notion that the NBA is considering revising the intentional-foul rule.

Opposing teams are fouling lousy foul-shooting big men because it makes sense. It’s a legitimate strategy to hack a Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler in the same way it’s a legit strategy to post up a small player in the post or force a jump shooter to drive.

The NBA shouldn’t be in the business of rewarding bad foul shooting.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

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