NBA AM: Change Of Scenery Benefits Josh Smith
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Josh Smith Set To Thrive In New Surroundings
Josh Smith is arguably the best player in the league without an All-Star appearance on the mantle. The lack of recognition in the past could have been politically motivated as suggested by some. Others would say it was simply a product of Smith’s inconsistency in making the jump to the next level.
Whatever the case or side of the fence you land on, Smith has a legitimate chance at silencing some of his biggest critics this season after switching zip codes this past summer.
The Detroit Pistons signed Smith to a lucrative four-year $54 million deal to pair alongside its emerging young man big man corps of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The Pistons also revamped their backcourt by acquiring Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with Milwaukee.
But it’s clear, the play of Smith will go a long way in determining the fortunes of the upstart Pistons this season and whether they can satisfy team owner Tom Gores’ playoff aspirations. If the club’s first preseason game was any indication, the Pistons may be on the right track.
Smith finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in just over 27 minutes of action in the team’s blowout victory win over Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday night. But the veteran forward connected on three out of four attempts from three-point range which has sparked even more optimism.
While with the Hawks, groans from segments of the crowd in Philips Arena were consistently heard anytime Smith started gathering into his shooting form. Smith was also routinely asked about his penchant for perimeter shooting by the media and often maligned for wanting to expand his jumper by virtually every outlet.
In Detroit Smith will get a fresh start, with a new fan base, and the early returns show a more confident release on his shot. Smith, for his part, remains confident.
“I’ve always done work in the summer time on extending my jumper,” Smith told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s just my ability to stay confident in knowing I’m a good shooter and being able to knock it down.”
Smith is just a 28 percent shooter from three-point range for his career but Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks says he has no plans to limit the veteran’s attempts on the perimeter – provided the shots are in rhythm.
“They were pretty stand-still shots,” Cheeks said of Smith’s efficient work on the perimeter versus Maccabi Haifa on Tuesday. “Tonight they were pretty rhythm shots. I think you get in trouble when you try to shoot with someone in your face, but if you’re shooting three-point shots like he was tonight, rhythm shots and wide-open shots, I’m very comfortable with that.
Cheeks says he’s talked to Smith about his expectations for his shot selection and has given him the green light.
“We’ve had small conversations about it,” Cheeks said. “But I’m not going to limit someone’s game if he’s wide open. He’s got to understand, everyone has to understand, good shot [versus] bad shot. Not just him. I think he understands it.”
Smith has career averages of 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in 676 career regular season games. Although a natural power forward, the veteran figures to log significant minutes at small forward in Detroit this season.
Smith’s development will also be helped by the presence of former All-Star forward Rasheed Wallace on Detroit’s staff. Wallace will serve as a player development coach. During the early stages of Wallace’s NBA journey he was also labeled as a talented big man who couldn’t turn the corner before finding late career success and respectability. The hope is Smith follows the same type of trajectory with his change of scenery.
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Sixers’ Locker Room Filled With Frustration Last Season
It is always interesting to reflect on the past and realize how a few bounces of the ball could rewrite a team’s respective fortunes. Case in point. The Philadelphia 76ers were just one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012. Wanting to seize its chance to join the league’s elite, the club opted to swing for the fences by acquiring former All-Star center Andrew Bynum prior to the start of the 2013 campaign.
Bynum is now in Cleveland and never played a minute in Philadelphia and the team limped to a 34-48 finish and missed the playoffs. The disappointing finish led to an offseason of change. Head coach Doug Collins stepped down, the team traded a pre-prime All-Star guard in Jrue Holiday and have invested heavily in rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.
Frustration was a constant in Philadelphia last season and the shakeup didn’t catch point guard Royal Ivey off guard. Ivey played 53 games and logged five starts for the Sixers last season and say the tension mounting firsthand.
“On paper we had a good team,” Ivey told HOOPSWORLD. “With a healthy Andrew Bynum and the guys they put around him. But it didn’t come to fruition. Things happen and he got hurt.
“Coaching, Doug got frustrated and things like that happen throughout a season. You got ups and downs. You go through your wins and losses but we really couldn’t battle that ship. It was a tough sail. So it happens. You deal with it and move on. It was a great learning experience, so I’ll take that with me.”
Royal Ivey Plans On Entering Coaching Ranks Post Career
Point guard Royal Ivey has logged action in nine NBA seasons for four different teams. This season Ivey is looking to make the Atlanta Hawks roster as a training camp invite. Ivey, 31, knows his career is winding down and wants to play a couple more seasons and then fully plans on entering the coaching ranks.
“I’m older now,” Ivey told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m 31. I want to play until the wheels fall off. No, I see a couple more years and then I want to do other ventures. I think I have a chance to coach and I’m definitely going to take heed to that.
“I’m going into my tenth year. Trying to get this tenth year and then we’ll see after that.”
Ivey has played in 490 regular season games in stints with Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. Ivey has career averages of 3.3 points on 36 percent shooting from three-point range.