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The Detroit Pistons on Monday released Smith with two years and $26 million left on his contract, unable to find a trade partner and unwilling to move forward with him on the roster.
Smith will sign a one-year deal with the Rockets for the biannual exception of $2 million after he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. His agents, Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather, informed the Rockets of the decision on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.
The Rockets believe Smith can step into the starting power forward spot.
The Rockets are in trade discussions that could be complete late Wednesday on a deal to free a roster spot to sign Smith, league sources said. For the Rockets, the addition of Smith closes a several-year pursuit of the talented but enigmatic power forward and moves him onto a frontline with his childhood friend, center Dwight Howard. The Rockets had a history with Smith, including a free-agent pursuit in 2013 that factored significantly into Smith’s choice of Houston over the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.
After the Pistons made the stunning move of releasing Smith on Monday, Houston aggressively pursued Smith with a message of restoring his market value and eroded credibility as a force in the NBA. The Rockets sold Smith on coach Kevin McHale’s system and a roster of teammates who believe they need Smith’s talents to chase a Western Conference championship. Houston wants to get Smith back to his strengths of shot-blocking and rebounding on defense, and attacking the basket on offense.
Houston tried to sign Smith as a free agent in summer 2013 and worked on several sign-and-trade proposals with the Atlanta Hawks, but were unable to acquire him. Smith signed a four-year, $56 million deal with Detroit in 2013, which immediately went sideways, based in part on the untenable and mismatched frontline of forward Greg Monroe and center Andre Drummond.
Smith, drafted by Atlanta with the 17th overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft, has averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his 11 seasons in the league.
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