Pistons' Josh Smith vows to work, ignore Monroe rumor

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Recognition and rumors certainly carry a lot of weight in professional sports, and Pistons forward Josh Smith is no stranger to either, especially since his arrival last summer.

One could essentially drive him, while Smith would have to ignore the latter if he will indeed take on a positive leadership role this season. Smith doesn't know if the rumors were true that teammate Greg Monroe threatened to sign a qualifying offer this summer if Smith weren't traded, and from all accounts, it seems way out of character for Monroe.

"You can't really concern yourself with it," Smith said. "But that was my first time dealing with it. Even in Atlanta, nothing like that ever came up in free agency from anybody's camp."

Smith went through a similar contract conundrum with the Hawks after the 2007-08 season as a restricted free agent, actually signing an offer sheet with the Grizzlies before the Hawks matched it.

"We'll just continue to work and be in a positive, energetic environment," Smith said. "And I wish nothing but the best for Greg. I hope he gets what he's looking for. If we succeed as a team, I don't see where he wouldn't get his money."

Neither side knows from where surfaced the rumors, which can certainly get away from the business of becoming a better basketball team. It appears the two haven't spoken directly about the rumors, although Monroe said he had a conversation with Stan Van Gundy, insisting he was willing to reach out to clear the air.

"I think if things aren't true, I think the other person who people are kinda throwing under the bus, as a teammate and a man, should come to that individual and let him know that had nothing to do with him," Smith said.

The innuendo and speculation apparently hasn't affected his play inside the walls of the Pistons practice facility, where Van Gundy has repeatedly sang his praises publicly and his teammates have done so privately.

"I think he's working hard," Van Gundy said. "He's trying to really step up defensively and take some leadership. Even more so today, made some really good passes. He's getting back down the floor, trying to do the things we want done. People notice those things."

Van Gundy and Smith had a talk in the summer about Smith getting the short end of the credit in Atlanta, where Smith played a huge part in the franchise turnaround from 13 wins in 2004-05 (Smith's rookie year) to 53 in 2009-10.

"He didn't get a lot of the credit for that, not as much as he should," Van Gundy said. "This is an opportunity for him to do that. The only point we made was to get that kind of credit is to win. Then people start looking at you differently."

The lion's share went to Joe Johnson and Al Horford, who were rewarded with All-Star appearances, thanks to Eastern Conference coaches who often voted them in as reserves.

"It's all about who the market decides to push," Smith said. "Those guys are still my brothers but ask them, they'll say I was cheated out of a couple (All-Star games). I've always played with a chip on my shoulder and it'll never leave until I'm finished playing this game."

One thing is for certain, though: Smith has gotten the short end in reference to voting for the All-Defensive teams and Defensive Player of the Year. Runner-up to Dwight Howard in 2010 was his high-water mark, the only time he's made one of the first two teams.

"Definitely a goal of mine. I feel like I've been cheated a couple times," Smith said. "People take for granted how well I guard perimeter guys as well as low-post defenders. Hopefully it'll be highlighted this year, every year I try to go out and be on one of those teams because it's a lost art in this league."

Smith finished 25th (1 vote) the next season and 10th in 2011-12. He didn't garner a single vote in 2009. He was sixth in 2008.

The criticisms for his shot selection are valid, but that has nothing to do with his output on the defensive end, and Van Gundy's best use for Smith this season could be on defense, if the Pistons are to turn from porous to respectable.

"I have to be focused this year and if the team is successful this year, the accolades will come," Smith said. "If we play together under his system, be intelligent basketball players this year, we'll succeed."