Central Notes: Cavaliers, Smith, Pistons

Jermaine O’Neal confirms he has heard from the Cavaliers, but tells Chris Haynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group that he will need two to three weeks to get ready. O’Neal will decide soon if he wants to retire or return to the NBA for a 19th season. He said he has spoken to a few teams personally, but Cleveland isn’t among them. The Cavaliers are in the market for a big man after a season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons gave Josh Smith a gift beyond the chance to play for a contender when they waived him Monday, according to Jonathan Nehring of Taxaball.com. Smith can also realize a tax savings estimated at $1.3MM. Athletes are required to pay state and local income tax for each game they play. Smith won’t play any more games for the Pistons, so his salary from them — the remainder of $13.5MM for the rest of this season and $27MM stretched over the next five years — is free from that tax. If, as rumored, he signs with the Rockets for their $2.077MM biannual exception, state and local taxes for the games he plays will be applied to that salary.
  • Stan Van Gundy deserves criticism for not resolving the Smith situation sooner, opines Michael Lee of The Washington Post. He notes that the Kings were interested in trading for Smith last summer, and offered various packages that included Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Carl Landry. Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and president of basketball operations, reportedly didn’t like the deals and elected to keep Smith. That led to Monday’s release, which an unidentified general manager termed as “reckless.”
  • Getting rid of Smith was the first of many problems that have to be addressed in Detroit, writes Vince Ellis of USA Today. He notes that the Pistons rank 24th in defensive efficiency and are struggling to score. Van Gundy was alarmed with Smith’s usage rate, which ranked 30th in the NBA. “We ran a lot of stuff through him and, clearly, if you want other people to have more offensive opportunities, you would have to take some away from him,” the coach said. “I didn’t think that would be good for him; I didn’t think he would be happy with that, so I think it’s easier moving forward this way.”

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