Pistons’ Smith on Morris’ departure: That’s business
Detroit — There are folks who spend their whole lives, personally and professionally, in one place.
Then there is Pistons point guard Ish Smith, who’s on his 10th team entering his eighth year in the NBA.
So if there’s one player who’s numb to the business side of pro sports, well, it’s him. That’s why while he hated to see his good friend, Marcus Morris, traded to the Celtics earlier this month, he understood it’s what pro athletes sign up for.
Here one day, gone the next.
“It’s a business. You gotta move on,” Smith said Wednesday at the Nike store in downtown Detroit for the Pistons’ new jersey unveiling. “I stand by Coach (Stan Van Gundy).
“I hate losing one of my good friends, but we’re excited about Avery (Bradley) and how talented he is, how good he is and what he brings.”
On July 7, the Pistons sent Morris, 27, a forward, to the Eastern Conference-champion Celtics for Bradley, 26, a guard, and a 2019 second-round draft pick.
The move was a surprise to many, including several Pistons — and it was to Van Gundy, too. Van Gundy, who’s also team president, said there were no discussions early in the offseason about trading Morris.
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But things changed, specifically the dicey nature of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s contract negotiations. The Pistons needed guard protection. It made sense. Still, it was a tough call for Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower, given Morris’ popularity in the locker room.
You never like to rock the boat if you don’t have to.
“There is a concern with that, always,” Van Gundy said. “Anytime you make a move, you affect chemistry, and Marcus was an extremely well-liked and extremely well-respected guy in the locker room by both his teammates and the staff. It was an extremely hard move to make.
“But I’ve never been around anywhere where — at least I haven’t, and it’s rare anywhere — where the locker room’s the same from one year to the next. There’s always changes, and each group has to find its own way and develop its own chemistry.”
It helps the Pistons are getting back a guy who, by all accounts, is an equally good egg.
Bradley has a reputation as a leader, a good person, and a selfless player. He probably could’ve scored more than the 16.3 points he averaged last season, but deferred a lot to breakout star Isaiah Thomas, who averaged 28.9 points.
As for Morris, he’s heading to his fourth team in his seventh season. This was the third time he’s been traded.
Smith has texted regularly with Morris, who recruited Smith to join the Pistons back when he still was playing for the 76ers. Even though Smith’s been traded five times, the Morris move actually rocked him more than it did Morris.
“You know Marcus is ‘Chill Will,’” Smith said with a laugh. “He was pretty calm when I talked to him.
“He’s going to a good situation, but we’re excited about where we’re at and we’re coming for them.”
Van Gundy said what was expected Wednesday — the team likely is done making moves, outside of maybe a minor move like adding another two-way player. He’s pleased with what he and Bower have accomplished, in adding Bradley, Langston Galloway and rookie Luke Kennard out of Duke.
Clearly, the Pistons wanted to address their woeful 3-point shooting.
They shot 33 percent as a team last season; Bradley shot 39 percent, as did Galloway, and Kennard shot 43.8 percent his last year in college.
“All are really good shooters, I’m excited about that,” Smith said. “We’re all trying to work to make those percentages better.
“Hopefully they rub off on us.”
While analysts love to give teams offseason grades, Van Gundy wouldn’t get into the self-assessment business.
After all, it doesn’t matter.
“The only marks that matter is what happens out on the court,” said Van Gundy, adding postseason is absolutely the expectation.
Van Gundy also said the team is likely to stay at 14 players, opting against adding a 15th. He likes the flexibility of 14.
Van Gundy had a sly smile when asked if he was happy to see Paul George (Thunder) and Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves) move out of the Eastern Conference this offseason.
“I think anytime you have a guy moving, a high-level guy, your first choice would be that he’s moving to your team, like we did with Avery,” Van Gundy said. “But your second choice would be that they move west. I’m a Horace Greeley fan, ‘Go West, young man.’ That’s a good thing, yeah.”
... The Pistons are moving downtown, but Smith isn’t.
“I’m perfect where I’m at,” Smith said, with a laugh. “I like to commute sometimes, listen to some J. Cole and drive to the games."
... Van Gundy said point guard Reggie Jackson (left knee tendinitis) is on a 16-week rehab program in Los Angeles, and the goal is to have him ready for camp, even if with limitations. No surgery is necessary.