Eastern Notes: Smith, Antetokounmpo, Embiid

Ish Smith, who inked a three year, $18MM deal with the Pistons this summer, believes that Detroit has a legitimate shot to win an NBA title, Keith Langlois of NBA.com relays. “I always ask people, ‘What wakes you up at night?’ For me, now it’s the pursuit of a championship,” Smith said. “That really is what the case is. It’s like, we’ve got a real chance to be champions. And I know that sounds crazy and people think, ‘Naaah. Yeah, you guys got better; not champions.’ But we’ve really got a real legit chance. And as long as we believe it, nobody else matters.

The point guard noted that he was tempted to remain with the Sixers, but was swayed by coach/executive Stan Van Gundy’s sales pitch on the franchise, Langlois adds. “Through the whole process, I looked at all the teams pursuing me and Detroit just stood out to me,” Smith said. “For the simple fact we were all young, Coach wanted to play with pace, Coach wants tons of pick and rolls. All those things fit into the way I want to play. Defensively, he wants us to climb into people. Getting to the playoffs was a huge goal, so now we have to come – me, [fellow free agents] Jon Leuer, big Bobie (Boban Marjanovic) – and be that help and hopefully we take it to the next level.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Sixers coach Brett Brown confirmed that center Joel Embiid will be on a strict minutes restriction this season and isn’t likely to play on back-to-back nights, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer relays.
  • With his future in Milwaukee secure thanks to his new four-year, $100MM extension, Giannis Antetokounmpo noted that he never had any doubts about being with the Bucks for the long-term, Charles F. Gardner of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel relays. “I can’t imagine me being somewhere else,” Antetokounmpo said. “I don’t say this just for the media but from the bottom of my heart. I know after this five years, hopefully, we’ll be doing great, and I’ll be here five more years. As I said last summer, I want to be here for 20 years. I don’t like change, anyway.”
  • Antetokounmpo could have pushed for a maximum salary extension, but chose to leave some money on the table to help the Bucks maintain future flexibility, Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com writes. “There was a max number out there, and that was discussed, discussed internally and externally,” GM John Hammond said. “And the one thing we asked Giannis to do was take that into consideration as we move forward. Give us every opportunity. We want to become a championship-level team. There’s going to be guys and guys who have done that, players who have given back some. And it’s a little bit of the time, as we move forward, hopefully we’re going to have other guys with the organization willing to do that. Those small pieces can turn into a bigger chunk at some point.
  • The crew over at Basketball Insiders weighed in with their predictions for the Hawks‘ 2016/17 campaign. The writers are divided in their opinions, pegging Atlanta to finish anywhere from first to third in the Southeast Division.

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