The Pistons have waived Josh Smith, the team announced via press release. A source tipped Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press to the news shortly before it happened (Twitter link). The team will use the stretch provision, tweets Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. The stretch provision will spread Smith’s $13.5MM salaries for 2015/16 and 2016/17 in equal $5.4MM amounts each season through 2019/20, but his full $13.5MM for this season is stuck on the payroll, assuming he clears waivers and assuming Smith and the team didn’t agree to a buyout.
“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,” Pistons president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy said in the team’s statement. “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.”
It’s a shocking move, but the team was had been “desperately” seeking to trade Smith and rival teams were insisting that the Pistons attach a first-round pick to him, according to Ellis (Twitter link). The Kings had maintained interest in trading for Smith, though recent reports made it unclear just how warm Sacramento has been to the idea recently after the team appeared to make a strong push for Smith over the summer, when Van Gundy rejected the Kings’ entreaties. Sacramento offered Jason Thompson and Carl Landry, but Detroit said no, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The Kings have interest in signing him as a free agent, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (on Twitter), though they only have the minimum salary to offer.
Smith will surely be a sought-after commodity on the free agent market once he, as expected, clears waivers in two days. The high cost of his contract makes him an unlikely candidate to be claimed off waivers. The Clippers are among the teams with interest, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The forward is close with with new Maverick Rajon Rondo, Chris Mannix of SI.com points out (on Twitter), and the two have spoken many times about playing together, according to Smith. Still, early indications are that the Mavs won’t pursue him and that Rondo won’t press the team to do so, as USA Today’s Sam Amick tweets, though Stein hears that Dallas is interested (Twitter link). The 29-year-old Smith is also close with former AAU teammate Dwight Howard, and the Rockets have had interest in the past, according to Spears (Twitter link). Still, Houston hasn’t decided whether to pursue him at this point, Stein reports (on Twitter). The Rockets would have a financial edge on the Mavs, since they have the $2.077MM biannual exception to offer, while the Mavs, like the Kings and Clippers, are limited to the minimum salary.
The Pistons enticed Smith, a Wallace Prather client, to sign a four-year, $54MM deal in the summer of 2013, but he never worked out in Detroit, and the contract quickly became an albatross as he struggled to fit in with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. His subtraction ostensibly allows the Pistons to move forward with Monroe and Drummond as their lone marquee big men, but Monroe is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end after signing his qualifying offer this past summer, and he seems to have soured on Detroit. Perhaps letting go of Smith is an appeal of sorts to Monroe, letting him know that he won’t be crowded out of playing time, but that’s just my speculation.