The last-place Detroit Pistons are hoping to establish a new identity now that Josh Smith is no longer around.
In their first game since releasing the high-priced forward, the Pistons renew their season series with the visiting Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
Smith, who was in the second year of a $54 million, four-year deal, was averaging 13.1 points while shooting what would be a career-worst 39.1 percent. He led the team with 391 field-goal attempts and 2.6 turnovers per game.
“He’s taking the most shots,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s got the ball in his hands a lot. We would have had to have reduced his role offensively. I don’t think he would have been happy with that at this point in his career. … I thought it was best for him, I thought it was best for us.”
“If we were 12-16 or 10-18, we probably wouldn’t be here. We’re 5-23. That calls, in every respect, for some adjustment. Some things had to be different.”
While Van Gundy is hoping to shake things up, some of Smith’s teammates were caught off guard.
“This is definitely the most surprising thing that’s happened since I’ve been in the league,” fifth-year forward Greg Monroe said.
Tied for the NBA’s second-fewest wins, Detroit has dropped four straight and 17 of 19. The Pistons are shooting a league-low 41.3 percent and rank near the bottom with 94.4 points per game.
They’re also looking for improvement on the other end of the court after posting a lousy defensive rating of 105.8, the number of points allowed per 100 possessions. Detroit has surrendered at least 110 points in each of its last four games after falling 110-105 at Brooklyn on Sunday.
“The players can tell you, virtually 80 percent, 85 percent of these last (few) days has been defense,” Van Gundy told the Pistons’ official website. “It’s not going to be enough. We need a lot more work. … Our offense was struggling and we shifted to spending less time on our defense and that was a mistake. We have to establish a defensive identity if we don’t do anything but defense for the rest of the year.”
Indiana has limited Detroit to an average of 88.6 points and 38.7 percent shooting during an 8-1 run in the series. The Pacers are 4-17 against the Pistons since 2009.
Indiana (10-19) is seeking a season-best third consecutive victory after beating New Orleans 96-84 on Tuesday. George Hill led the team with 15 points in 21 minutes off the bench in his season debut after working his way back from a knee injury.
“George coming back makes a big difference,” fellow guard C.J. Miles said. “He runs the offense and he gets guys where they need to be and putting them to their strengths.”
The Pacers, who were also without All-Star forward David West until late last month, are starting to show signs of life.
“We’re getting healthy, we’re playing together and we’re just playing with a little edge,” C.J. Watson said. “I think the chemistry is getting there.”
Roy Hibbert was able to return after banging his knee Tuesday, but he’s listed as day to day. Hibbert has scored a combined 29 points in the last two games after averaging 7.0 over the previous nine.
Anthony Tolliver could make his Pistons debut after coming over from Phoenix on Wednesday. He was averaging 3.3 points in 24 games for the Suns.