If you had Josh Smith and Kenneth Faried in your "Who will be the first big beef of 2014-15?" pool, it's time to collect your money, but you probably didn't. Two likable NBA characters, if for entirely different reasons, the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets forwards traded barbs through the media.
Asked in a video for the team website about the keys to Denver's 89-79 victory against Detroit on opening night, Faried explained, "Josh Smith. We let him keep shooting, and he ended up with 25, but he still kept shooting. He shot them out of the game." Shots fired, quite literally.
Since his days on the Atlanta Hawks, Smith has been criticized for firing too many jumpers (he shot 31.7 percent outside 10 feet last season), especially when he's so adept at scoring around the basket (66.8 percent in the restricted area). Neither Faried nor his coach made any secret of their defensive game plan.
As Nuggets coach Brian Shaw told reporters before Wednesday's game in Denver, "They have a stretch four in Josh Smith who has shot a lot of threes but doesn't shoot a high percentage."
According to stats.nba.com's fancy new shot logs and shots dashboard, 11 of Smith's 14 shots outside 10 feet came with double digits left on the shot clock, and nine of those were of the "open" (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or "wide open" (beyond 6 feet) variety. As Pistons blog Detroit Bad Boys points out, Kyle Singler and Brandon Jennings blasted the team's ball movement after Smith finished 9-of-22.
Faried and Shaw simply stated irrefutable facts, but it's hard to blame Smith for taking offense at the rather public way the Nuggets went about explaining their strategy. As a result, Smith fired a variety of shots back in the Detroit News prior to Thursday's 97-91 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves — a game in which he finished 5-of-16 from the floor and missed six of his eight attempts outside 10 feet.
"I don't respond to nobody with dreadlocks who plays basketball," Smith said, referring to Faried's hairdo. "He's a clown, quote me on that."
"He fears me," Smith said. "He's scared of me, so, of course, he'll talk about me in the paper. He won't do it to me in my face. If you have to hide behind a microphone or smartphone, so be it. I don't mind."
"It's a lot of social media. I'm an older guy, I'm not on social media, Twitter, Instagram. It's a lot of media thugs and Instagram gangstas, I would classify him in one of those categories."
It's always an enjoyable when athletes declare, "I don't respond to nobody," and then proceed to respond in great detail for an entire interview. It's also pretty wild that Smith, 28, declares himself "older," drops a "smartphone" and an "Instagram gangstas," and believes that a player whose nickname is "Manimal" for obvious reasons is frightened by him. Julia Child couldn't whip up a better recipe for NBA beef.
The two teams meet again in Detroit on Feb. 6, and Smith now has it circled, per the Detroit News.
"He knows it's coming, he knows, next time we play," Smith said. "In order to make those comments like that, you gotta be able to back it up and we'll see next time."
"I'll have some words while I'm busting his (behind). I back it up when I talk. It's gonna be a pretty good matchup."
For the recod, Faried collected 22 points (8-12 FG) and 17 boards in 28 minutes in their first meeting.
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