Minneapolis — For those who say the NBA is too friendly, the unexpected war of words between Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried and Pistons forward Josh Smith comes as a bit of a surprise.
Walking off the floor after the Nuggets' 89-79 win in Denver on opening night Wednesday with 22 points and 17 rebounds to his name, Faried mouthed off about Smith's evening.
"Josh Smith, we let him keep shooting," Faried said on the team's website after the game. "And he ended up with 25, but he still kept shooting. He shot them out of the game."
Smith, who started off hitting six of his first 10 shots but made just three of his final 12, heard of Faried's comments Thursday afternoon from a friend, and fired back in kind before the Pistons played the Minnesota Timberwolves.
"I don't respond to nobody with dreadlocks who plays basketball," Smith said, referring to Faried's hairdo. "He's a clown, quote me on that."
Faried got the better of Smith on opening night, but Smith vowed things would be different when the two meet again in early February at The Palace. Faried has made his name as an energy player at power forward, and earned his numbers in 27 minutes, which likely sticks in Smith's craw.
"He knows it's coming, he knows, next time we play," Smith said. "In order to make those comments like that, you gotta be able to back it up and we'll see next time."
"I'll have some words while I'm busting his (behind). I back it up when I talk. It's gonna be a pretty good matchup."
Smith was referring to a competitive matchup on the floor, not alluding to anything where security would be involved or the league office needs to step in.
Trash talk isn't unusual where top athletes compete at the highest level, but rarely is it so straightforward and unprompted, as Faried's comments appeared to be.
"He fears me," Smith said. "He's scared of me, so, of course, he'll talk about me in the paper. He won't do it to me in my face. If you have to hide behind a microphone or smartphone, so be it. I don't mind."
Smith was one of the few offensive weapons the Pistons had Wednesday. They were anemic as a whole, shooting 37 percent. Nuggets coach Brian Shaw started the woofing in his pre-game comments, and it was clear the team's strategy was to give Smith open perimeter jumpers as opposed to letting other shooters get off.
"We have to have a rebounding mentality," Shaw said. "They have Josh Smith, who shoots a lot of threes but doesn't shoot a high percentage."
Opposing teams would rather have Smith settling for jumpers than attacking, which keeps him away from his strengths.
Faried's words certainly belied that strategy, but Smith said the two didn't have words during the game. Smith not-so-playfully referred to Faried, a rising 24-year star who garnered national attention with Team USA this past summer, as a "Twitter or Instagram gangsta."
"I just laughed. It's funny to me," Smith said. "No, he didn't say nothing to me, I didn't say nothing to him. That's why I find it amusing. He didn't say two words to me."
Other players in the locker room said the Nuggets as a whole were a little mouthy, so Faried appears to be following suit. Not that Smith cares one bit about the origin of Faried's comments or the culture that appears to exist in Denver.
"Everybody's entitled to their own opinion," Smith said. "But do it when the game is being played and not after, when you run your mouth like that."
"It's a lot of social media. I'm an older guy, I'm not on social media, Twitter, Instagram. It's a lot of media thugs and Instagram gangstas, I would classify him in one of those categories."
Feb. 6 is looking like a must-see in Auburn Hills.