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Josh Smith Makes Detroit Pistons a Watchable, Playoff-Worthy Team in 2013-14

The Gritty Vet Adds Size and Scoring Power to the Motor City

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COMMENTARY | Josh Smith is going to have to throw down a few more dunks and sink a few more jumpers from the top of the key in order to get the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs.


But he got off to a good start Sunday night at the Staples Center -- and that's a positive sign for the Pistons, who finished at No. 11 in the Eastern Conference standings this past season.

Although Detroit lost 114-99 to the Los Angeles Lakers, Smith provided a glimmer of hope with 18 points and eight rebounds. He provided something in which fans can pin their hopes to -- well, that and the All-Star resume that he's bringing from his days with the Atlanta Hawks.

Needless to say, team president Joe Dumars and owner Tom Gores made the right decision by luring the 6-foot-9-inch, 225-pounder to MoTown. Detroit has lacked an inside scoring touch worthy of noting for some time.

Along with existing and recently acquired talent, Smith is primed to make this team a threat in the East and put the days of being close in the rear view.

Smith Is Flexible

Showing composure while facing a fire is the mark of a solid leader. Detroit isn't Smith's team, but he has as good of a shot as any -- with the exception of again-Detroiter Chauncey Billups -- at setting the tone in the locker room.

This past week, he played just 18 minutes during Detroit's 113-95 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Shrugging it off, it seems as if Smith, who was once known for his temper, now knows when to take the high road.

He put the mysterious benching into perspective instead of whining about it. He's willing to sacrifice for the well-being of the team.

"I'm not a selfish player, so I'm not going to go in there and demand plays be ran for me," Smith told David Mayo, MLive.com's Pistons beat writer. "I just kind of look around and see what in the game is being forced my way, or given my way, and just work my way around it."

"I think I can be effective offensively but, you know, it might be somebody else's night. You never know what it is. Like I said, I can't focus on things that I can't control."

At this time, a team looking to turn a new leaf needs comments such as Smith's to radiate throughout the organization.

Smith Fits Into Plan

The Pistons traded Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings, who led with 23 points Sunday vs. the Lakers, in an attempt to inch closer to contention.

Getting Smith serves a similar purpose. The talent is there, and the trick for Smith will be to find a way to mix in without stepping on toes. Jennings wants the ball. Andre Drummond, a second-year soon-to-be All-Star, wants the ball. Greg Monroe wants the ball.

Everyone, including Smith, wants to get his touches so that way he can get his nightly numbers. Fair enough. Competitors want to compete. The Pistons are all of nine games deep into the season. Chemistry doesn't develop overnight, but Smith's been around the block and knows what's expected.

He also has Billups and Dumars there to relay the team's history and all of that jazz. Properly motivated, Smith should prove to be a cornerstone for Dumars, who signed Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal.

The 'Sheed Factor

Former star Rasheed Wallace, an expert at inside-outside, is now part of the coaching staff and can help mold Smith into a playoff leader, not just a stat-making machine in the regular season. Since his arrival, Smith has worked out with Wallace in an attempt to straighten out his jump shot. It's not pretty, it has a slight hitch, but when effective, it's a key to Smith's game.

Smith said the following after a Wallace session to the Detroit Free Press (via NBC Pro Basketball Talk):

"I'm just trying to polish up things. I'm trying to be more consistent on my mid-range and long-range jumper. I've been working on it hard each and every day here [in Detroit]. Rasheed has been teaching me some things that I need to know on the block; some veteran leadership from him. He has been able to show me some things. It's always beneficial when you have a veteran guy who has played in the NBA and been successful and now they're coaches.

"They can see things from a player's and a coach's standpoint."

At 6-9 and 225 pounds, Smith can assist in the Pistons' transformation from lovable loser to real-deal contender.

Since winning it all in 2004, the Pistons, who were relevant until 2007 until they lost in the NBA Finals to San Antonio, haven't given their fans much to cheer about. The face of the team is changing and is no longer representative of the last "Bad Boys" era that ended six years ago.


Sure, the Vanilla Ice halftime show was a great change of pace. Owner Tom Gores and president Joe Dumars really dug deep for that one, going "to the extreme" to satisfy a fanbase that's patiently waiting for a postseason run.

But it's time to cut the cute stuff and win.

Smith can get Detroit over the hump. Now that he's in town, finishing in the top five in the Eastern Conference isn't a pipe dream, it's a stark reality.

Adam Biggers has followed the Detroit Pistons for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.

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