Pistons release Josh Smith. WHAT?

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Josh Smith has been one of the most infuriating players to watch in the NBA.

His high level of ability is wasted by a propensity to shoot jumpers and inconsistent effort. Adding to the problems, the Pistons have frequently used him at small forward, where even his plus defense goes to waste as he struggles to chase smaller players around the perimeter.

But those problems will no longer be Detroit’s, at least on the court.

The Pistons took a good shot – better than any of Smith’s – at one-upping the Michael Malone-firing Kings for the NBA’s most shocking move of the season.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today the club has requested waivers on forward Josh Smith.

“Our team has not performed the way we had expected throughout the first third of the season and adjustments need to be made in terms of our focus and direction,” said Stan Van Gundy, Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations for the Detroit Pistons.  “We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future.  As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced.  In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward.  We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Pistons owe Smith the rest of his $13.5 million salary for this season, and they’ll pay the other $27 million he’s owed in $5.4 million installments for the next five years. That means Smith will count against Detroit’s cap until 2020.

As much as this move brings into question Smith’s value – and does that in spades – it should also call into question Stan Van Gundy’s ability to run a front office. He reportedly discussed a Smith trade with the Kings in the offseason, but that never went anywhere. During the season, Van Gundy tried to trade Smith, but unsurprisingly, there were no takers.

Obviously, Van Gundy felt trapped between a rock and a hard place – teams don’t  lightly waive players with more than $35 million of guaranteed money remaining – but he probably put himself there. The big question: Why now? What are the Pistons going to do with the freed cap space that couldn’t wait for the chance that Smith at all repaired his trade value?

Or was Smith just that toxic?

Greg Monroe’s camp reportedly wanted Smith traded, but that was before Monroe signed the qualifying offer and appeared headed out of town as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Could this be a last-ditch grand gesture to persuade Monroe to stay?

It seems desperate, but the 5-23 Pistons probably are.

Smith is now anything but. He remains a talented player, and he’ll have a chance to rehabilitate his image in a better environment. With Andre Drummond and Monroe crowding the paint, he never looked comfortable in Detroit. He’s guaranteed to keep his money, and he’ll pick his next team.

This is a win for Smith and admission of failure by the Pistons, though maybe one they had to make.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.