When the Detroit Pistons tipped off against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, Josh Smith was on the bench. This, naturally, raised all kinds of questions.
Why wasn’t Smith starting against his former team? Had Maurice Cheeks given up on the Pistons’ big frontcourt of Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond after just 11 games? Was this a reaction to the team’s poor start?
The questions didn’t exactly stop once the game got going, as Kyle Singler, Smith’s replacement in the starting unit, dropped 22 points and seemed to mesh much better with the starters.
Meanwhile, Smith continued his struggles this year with an 0-for-7 scoreless night in just 20 minutes.
Was this enough to start a small forward controversy? It doesn’t appear so.
Cheeks said Smith is his starting small forward and is moving on. #Pistons.
— Vincent Ellis (@Vincent_Ellis56) November 23, 2013
As it turns out, Smith came off the bench for disciplinary reasons, not “basketball reasons”, as David Stern would say.
Smith said it was a communication problem, that his father was ill (he didn’t attend weds game) & he felt it was assumed he could stay home
— Vincent Goodwill (@vgoodwill) November 23, 2013
While this may calm some nerves in Detroit, the Pistons are still 4-8. The defense is a disaster, and the offense remains starved for space. There are major issues here, and lineup changes of some sort will likely need to happen at some point if things don’t turn up soon.
That change probably won’t be moving Smith, who signed a 4-year, $54 million dollar deal this offseason, to the bench in favor of Singler. But moving him back to power forward? That might not be a bad idea. Smith is attempting 5.2 three-pointers a game, and he’s posting the lowest true shooting percentage and PER of his entire career. He’s just not a perimeter threat.
We’ll see what Cheeks does to try and turn this thing around, or we’ll see if Joe Dumars gets active on the trade market. But for right now, at least, it appears Smith will remain the starting small forward.