Josh Smith, Brandan Wright

Report: Pistons would trade Josh Smith if they could

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Josh Smith is having the worst season of his career.

Playing far too much small forward, a position he can handle only in select matchups, his defense has really fallen off. Though Smith defends power forwards well, his his lack of speed on the perimeter kills his ability to chase wings around screens. He’s also taking way too many jumpers and not getting inside enough, an issue that exists no matter which forward position he’s playing.

Some of that is Smith fault, and some of that is the Pistons’. But it’s all the Pistons’ problem.

The Pistons signed Smith to a four-year, $54 million contract last summer, and they’ll have to pay him all that money – or find someone else to do it.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and “could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.

If the Pistons are desperate to trade Smith, that’s something people around the league would know, because that would mean the Pistons are calling around to shop him.

That would also jive with the Pistons’ reported plan to keep Greg Monroe.

Here are a few Smith trade ideas, from least appealing to most appealing from a Pistons perspective:

  • Smith to the Celtics for Gerald Wallace (three years remaining on his contract) – with Keith Bogans (zero remaining guaranteed years) included to make salaries match
  • Smith to the Knicks for Andrea Bargnani (two years remaining)
  • Smith to the Bobcats for Ben Gordon (expiring contract)
  • Smith to the Suns for Emeka Okafor (expiring contract whose salary is partially covered by insurance)

Some of those players would make the Pistons a little better, some a little worse. But that’s not the point here. These deals are totally about the contracts.

Gordon would be the most interesting deal of the four. The Pistons actually traded Gordon and a first-round pick to Charlotte to clear the cap room used to sign Smith. The Bobcats could really use a power forward, and Smith would fit relatively well in Charlotte.

But would Dumars so publically admit a mistake? After all, the series of transactions – trading Gordon and a pick for Corey Maggette’s expiring contract, signing Smith, trading Smith for Gordon – would essentially leave the Pistons nothing to show for their troubles except a lost first-round pick.

In a completely logical world, those previous moves wouldn’t matter. They’re sunk costs. If trading Smith for Gordon improves the Pistons’ outlook now, they should do it.

Obviously, it doesn’t always work that way.

But much earlier in his tenure, Dumars’ biggest strength was his ability to admit and fix mistakes.

  • He whiffed on the Mateen Cleaves pick, but sent the former Michigan State point guard to the Kings after just one year for Jon Barry (a strong backup during the Pistons’ resurgance) and a first-round pick that became Carlos Delfino.
  • The next year, Dumars drafted Rodney White, another bust. Again, he traded White after just one year to the Nuggets for a do-over first-rounder – which was eventually part of the Rasheed Wallace trade and, coincidentally, used to select Smith.
  • When Ben Wallace left Detroit, Dumars gave Nazr Mohammed a long contract to replace him. But after just a season-and-a-half with the Pistons, Mohammed was sent to Charlotte for spare parts.

Would Dumars repeat that productive, though self-deprecating. approach here? Would he admit his mistake and dump Smith for simply a shorter contract?

Perhaps the better question: Can he?

Report: Knicks grumbling about Jeff Hornacek’s lineups and rotations

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 17: Head coach Jeff Hornacek of the New York Knicks watches as his team plays the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on December 17, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has seemingly steered clear of the Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony feud. Hornacek has even avoided Jackson, one of the greatest coaches of all time, overly interfering.

But Hornacek hasn’t sidestepped every fissure in New York.

Veteran Knicks are reportedly frustrated with the defensive scheme, though some of that resentment could be pinned on assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Derrick Rose has reportedly been increasingly frustrated with Hornacek. And apparently he’s not the only one.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday’s loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks’ recent lineups.

“Every day is something new. So just got to be ready I guess. You never know when you’re going to play,” he said.

Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.

“Yeah, when you come in here you don’t really know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of no consistency and it’s really tough right now,” he said. “Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time.”

Jennings isn’t the only player expressing dissatisfaction beyond anonymous leaks.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Rose and Hornacek yelled at each other after Rose – who called on Hornacek to coach defense harder – got beat by Dennis Schroder on this play:

Berman reports Kyle O'Quinn also glared at Hornacek after being subbed out during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks.

After the game, Courtney Lee – whom Hornacek removed the starting lineup – posted and deleted photos of Dumb & Dumber on Instagram. Lee then followed with this caption:

I posted a pic of dumb n dumber cuz that was my mood, no jab at no1. It’s dumb that we have a talented team and we’re in position to win games n keep losing by 1 possession. We’ll figure it out collectively as a team but that was my mood after the game. Has nothing to with any change, rotation, system, players, coaches, so let that be clear.

Are we reading too much into vague social media postings and distant body language? That is a real risk.

But Hornacek still appears to have issues with these Knicks. The debate should be a matter of the depth of the problems, not whether they exist.

This is what happens when teams lose 11 of 13. Players get frustrated and grumble.

The coach also often adjusts the rotation, which Hornacek has done, including starting Ron Baker. Jennings and co. haven’t earned stability in their roles. When they had that, they were losing.

The question now: Can Hornacek reclaim the players’ trust, which would help the team break its skid? Or does the griping – and, partially as a result, the losing – continue in a season-destroying snowball?

PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson rift just adds to Knicks stagnation

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Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson had a chilly talk, and Anthony told Jackson the star forward wants to stay in New York. Which, based on the mind games we’re seeing, is not what Jackson wants — although you get the feeling Jackson wants to move Anthony to bring in more stop-gap, win now pieces rather than try to build a future around Kristaps Porzingis.

Which all speaks to why the Knicks have made the playoffs just three times in 13 years. What is the Knicks long-term plan?

I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra. Well, except the long-term plan because nobody knows what that is.

Rajon Rondo strangely runs behind Rick Carlisle during play (video)

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This would be ignored – still odd, but ignored – if it weren’t for their history.

But Rajon Rondo running behind Rick Carlisle during the Mavericks’ win over the Bulls raised a couple eyebrows in curiosity and drew a few chuckles. What was Rondo doing?

At least Carlisle explained why he didn’t call timeout before Wesley Matthewsgame-winning 3-pointer. The Dallas coach had Rondo in mind.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Mike D’Antoni: “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 07: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Verizon Center on November 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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It’s not exactly Seven Seconds or Less Part 2 in Houston, but it may be closer to Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate vision.

The Rockets are 32-12 with the third-best offense in the NBA (Toronto and Golden State), and it’s an analytics wet dream of threes and shots at the rim. It’s all come together because James Harden bought in. Steve Nash ran the offense brilliantly but differently — Harden is as good or better with his style (which gets him to the line more often).

The brilliant Howard Beck at Bleacher Report got everyone to talk about the Rockets rapid rise and how it all came together. It’s must read. Plus there are some brilliant quotes, starting with Harden about D’Antoni pitching the move to point guard:

“I thought he was crazy,” says Harden, who earned his stardom at shooting guard….

Or as D’Antoni put it, “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach.”

“People always ask, ‘You traded for him; did you know he was this good?'” (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says. “I’m like, ‘F–k no!’ I mean, we thought he was extremely good and better than other teams probably did.”

But not top-five good or, say, top-three, which Morey would make the case for today.

Harden is MVP-level good. What’s more, the Rockets are knocking on the door of contender good. The pedestrian defense isn’t there yet (18th in the NBA for the season, 15th for the month of January), questions about depth and if young key cogs like Clint Capela can grow into the roles the Rockets need them to, and there are the health concerns considering the histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.

But the Rockets are dangerous right now and could reach the Western Conference Finals this season if healthy and things break right (their style and athleticism would be a tough test for the Spurs).  And the story of how it all came together is fascinating.