The Pistons have never looked back since waiving Josh Smith over three weeks ago – but neither has he, as the new Rockets forward has enjoyed his time in Houston, where he's been coming off the bench (willingly no less) and playing within McHale’s offensive structure. Houston has gone on a similar run as the Pistons since moving Smith to the bench, and the Atlanta-native doesn’t seem to be too miffed about having his minutes and role reduced.
In an interview with the Washington Post's Michael Lee, Smith explains how being released by the Pistons was a "blessing". Smith, 29, figured that part of the reason he was sent packing was because he didn’t fit in Van Gundy’s system, and with the Pistons "in a rebuilding phase," he saw his dismissal as an opportunity to play for a contending team and still get paid every cent from his remaining Pistons contract. Since arriving is Houston, Smith "hasn't stopped smiling," but maintains he harbors no ill-will towards his former team.
The news of his dismissal came as a surprise to everyone except those involved, but both Smith and the Pistons have learnt a certain amount about themselves in the process. Van Gundy originally linked the move with the beginning of a youth movement in Motown and change in direction to embrace the development of the team’s core, which as we have been witness to, produced some very promising results. Whilst many have lauded Smith's dismissal as addition by subtraction, Smith himself feels as though his former team's recent successes aren't necessarily linked to his departure.
"We could've turned it around, I'm kind of thinking that. I text those guys every day and let them know - the ones I was really close to - of how proud I am of them and to keep up the good work..."
Smith feels that his time in Detroit has given him a better grasp over his strengths and weaknesses, but with quotes like the ones above, you wonder how much he has actually learnt - if anything at all. When queried about his thoughts about people drawing comparisons between how Detroit and Atlanta have improved since he left both teams, Smith dismissed the notion, saying:
"Well, I really don't pay attention. I watch ‘Family Guy.' I watch ‘Maury Povich.' That's one of my favorite shows. I don't really put my ears and eyes to negative publicity. I know that every player is critiqued in this league, especially by ones that don't know the individual players, so I really can't get mad. I mean, it's something to talk about. If they had nothing to talk about on ESPN and other shows, no one would watch."
In twelve games (7-5) with the Houston Rockets, Smith has averaged 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks and 2.2 assists against 2.8 turnovers in 24.7 minutes per game. He is currently shooting a line of .408/.192/.400. Despite these numbers, McHale and Smith's new teammates have praised his high basketball IQ and energy on and off the court, which, according to them, has helped them close out games.
The Houston Rockets will be coming to the Palace on Jan. 31, and hopefully the new-look Pistons will be able to welcome Smith home in true Detroit fashion: by building a wall.