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UCLA took a team bus two blocks from the JW Marriott to Staples Center, and Josh Smith was benched after missing it

Guess that SI article had an impact on Ben Howland and he’s now out to prove what a disciplinarian he is. The UCLA coach benched center Josh Smith for the first half of the team’s Pac-12 tournament game against USC Wednesday for missing the team bus to Staples Center.

“We left him, and he was four minutes late,” Howland said. “He hasn’t been late one other time the whole year. It hasn’t been something that’s been a problem in terms of him ever being late to the bus, but I don’t care. This is too big and too important.”

Smith played poorly in eight minutes and admitted he deserved to be punished.

“Coach made a decision. I was late. I deserve to be punished,” Smith said.

Now you might say that a player being benched an entire half for being four minutes late to the team bus is excessive, and I would agree. But what’s far more mind-boggling is why UCLA even needs a bus to travel two blocks from the hotel to the arena. The buildings are two short blocks apart and a walk would take less than 10 minutes. Howland says they took a bus because last year they had to walk through fans who were drinking at LA Live.

If this is the byproduct of the Sports Illustrated article, I’m not sure I like it. The whole idea was for Howland to become more aware and malleable, not to go around killing mosquitoes with cannonballs.

USC Coach Kevin O’Neill on UCLA Center Josh Smith: Fat Boy Needs to Slim Down

USC basketball coach Kevin O’Neill, last seen double-fisting cocktails at the Pac-10 tournament, once said UCLA sophomore center Josh Smith had more upside than any other player in the conference. Now he’s not as positive about the Bruins big man.

“I like Josh, I think he’s a good player,” O’Neill said Thursday, when asked how he thinks Smith is progressing this season. “But I would encourage anybody that’s in Josh’s physical condition that, if you want to play at the next level, he’s got to lose weight and get himself in better shape to play.”

O’Neill emphasized that Smith needs to get in shape to play at the next level.

Wrong-minded UCLA fans will get upset with the USC coach for what he said, but that would be a poor reaction. I applaud O’Neill for opening his mouth.

Like O’Neill, I thought Smith had a lot of potential as a player. I still think he does. And in some senses, his 6’10″ 300-plus pound frame is an asset in the post. However, his weight is such a problem he’s only averaged 18 minutes a game. How are you supposed to be a major impact player when you’re in the game less than half the time?

Hopefully Smith uses O’Neill’s criticism to improve himself as a player. It would be good for him and the team.

UCLA’s Joshua Smith Apologizes for Calling Loyola Marymount ‘Straight Bums’

UCLA lost its season opener to Loyola Marymount on Friday night, 69-58. What was already a difficult loss for the nation’s 17th-ranked team to stomach was made worse by a bonehead tweet from center Joshua Smith. According the the L.A. Times, Smith tweeted, “Just lost to some straight bums lol” after the game.

It’s never a wise decision to go on Twitter and start name-calling after a game.  Doing it after a loss makes even less sense.

The UCLA center apologized on Saturday by tweeting, “What I said wasn’t smart and was bad sportsmanship. I apologize for the comment i made yesterday. We lost to a team that just outplayed us.”

Widely considered to be one of the Bruins’ best overall players, Smith should realize everything he does will be heavily scrutinized. He managed only five points and four rebounds in 16 minutes against LMU. Those numbers certainly don’t give you the right to talk trash, much less disparage the opposing team.

Obviously Smith’s remarks stemmed from frustration, but he needs to use better judgment. Insulting your opponent on Twitter will never score you any points with the fans or media.  When your team loses to lesser competition you’re only adding insult to injury.