Auburn Hills – — Josh Smith wasn't surprised to be sitting at the dais inside the Pistons practice facility for Media Day, despite the numerous rumors of his presumed exit out of town.
The mill was full of Smith's name all summer, as most assumed he was the odd man out in the triumvirate with free agent Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. As Stan Van Gundy took over, he took it upon himself to assuage Smith's feelings about possibly being moved — if Smith's psyche was indeed damaged.
"It was good to hear from him, to let me know there is another way of doing the professional thing on that side," Smith said. "I respected it and it gave me a gauge of how different people are."
Smith described last season — one where he launched a career-high 265 3-pointers — almost like a nightmare he couldn't wake up from. He tried to mask it with a joke but it appeared he was truly bothered by at least the result, if not the why.
"It was real tough. It was very cold and losing on top of it, it got hard," said Smith, who spent virtually every year of his life before last season in Atlanta, except for one year of high school. "But I started off losing in this league so I'm appreciative of the moments of winning."
He took the brunt of the public blame as the most accomplished player on a young team with playoff aspirations and recipient of a $50 million-plus deal in July 2013. He attributed much of his struggles to playing small forward, a position he hadn't played since 2004-07, his first three as a professional.
"I haven't played 3 since I've been in the NBA, so it's kind of a foreign position," Smith said. "But I'm not gonna use it as an Achilles' heel for why my numbers were down. It was very challenging, though."
He clashed with then-coach Maurice Cheeks before Cheeks' firing, and the NBA world at large could be expecting a similar situation with Van Gundy, who seems to be implying someone of the three will start games on the pine.
"I like to win. Winning is the No. 1 priority for me," Smith said. "I like how he's making it a competition. I'm willing to do whatever, I'm a team player."
He added some more bulk to his physique, a common upgrade amongst NBA players in the offseason. Van Gundy told him his days as a small forward were likely over
"I knew I would have to withstand that physicality," Smith said. "Me and (Kentavious Caldwell-) Pope did a lot of weightlifting together in Atlanta."
"I started the 3 last year so majority of my spacing was done in the corner threes and on the arc. Playing the four and using great knowledge of making guys better, I think it'll be beneficial."
And candidly, at least for the moment, he knows his role will change, and Van Gundy having titles as coach and team president means he has the ultimate hammer.
"Whatever my role is, whatever he defines it, you have to play it to the best," Smith said. "Otherwise he'll take you out the game and make you think about what he said your role was."
Monroe denies rumors
Greg Monroe wasn't pleased with some of the things said about him this summer as he went through the restricted free-agent process, specifically pertaining to the belief he wanted Smith traded as a condition of re-signing long-term.
"Lies. You say rumors, it's lies," said Monroe, usually soft-spoken but definitive with this statement. "Because I know what really went on, I'm not worried about it. That stuff is behind me, I could care less. The people behind me know how I feel, what was said. I've had discussions with my teammates."
He wanted to make clear he wouldn't disparage a teammate publicly or privately, and certainly wouldn't use it as leverage.
"I didn't say that. I know I didn't," Monroe said.
"If he needed me to reach out to him, I would do that. I would play with him. That's my teammate. I'm more worried about him, I don't want him feeling any type of way. And now I'm worried about getting better."