The Pistons made a very bold decision on December 22 to waive veteran and highly paid Josh Smith. Smith was a hot free agent target with loads of talent and a number of faults that only he was oblivious to. It certainly did not take long for head coach and president Stan Van Gundy to make a move going forward. With intentions to develop the younger players on the squad and distribute playing time more evenly, Detroit showed Smith the door.
I can’t say I blamed Stan Van Gundy for wanting to try out the Smith experience. Smith was in the Motor City before SVG, so it was fair for the coach to let him play and see if he could be the savior and figure out the problem. A guy getting paid the money Smith was getting certainly wasn’t going to ride the pine very often. It was obvious to not only Pistons fan, but every NBA expert and analyzer that Josh Smith simply does not fit in the organization.
So what has happened post-Smith? Only a modest 7-game win streak. Five of the seven on the road, including back-to-back W’s in San Antonio and Dallas, six of the seven were by double-digits, and two of the victories included double-digit comebacks by the Pistons. The most important and eye-popping thing about this streak? The chemistry. Everyone is distributing, having fun, helping each other, and having the common mentality of wanting to win basketball games. It is safe to say this team is moving in the right direction since allowing Josh Smith to move elsewhere. The team could not quite overcome a 20+ point deficit in Friday night’s game at home against the equally hot Atlanta Hawks, who had won 20 of 22 coming in. They are clearly the class of the Eastern Conference right now.
The Pistons however, showed a toughness and resilience to them that they never did when Josh Smith was on the team. Let’s face it, he was toxic to the team and affecting their will to win and their ball skills. He flat out did not give the other players on the team to perform at the level they have been lately. If Smith was still on the team for the last eight games, including tonight, there is a good chance they would have lost majority of them, by a wide margin like they did when they had him on the roster.
Better team now? Absolutely. Win streak a fluke? I don’t think so. Playoff bound??? We’ll see how they respond.