Kade Messner ‘17 – On December 22nd, 2014 the Detroit Pistons front office decided the team needed a change. They waived the starting small forward on the team, Josh Smith. Smith was averaging 12.6 PPG, 4.1 APG, 6.9 RPG, along with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 13.51 this season. The franchise, along with almost every Detroit Piston fan, thought he was underachieving and bringing the team down, after only one year after signing Smith to a four year 54 million dollar contract. Last year, the Pistons were expected to make the playoffs, but they ended up falling short and finished with a 29-53 record, missing the playoffs for the 5th straight season. After plummeting to a 5-23 start to this season, the team agreed upon a change, and that change was to get, “J-Smoove” (Josh Smith) out of Detroit.
Since releasing Smith, the Pistons are on a 7 game win streak, The franchise’s longest win streak since 2008. Even more remarkable than that; 6 out of the previous 7 games has been won by 10 or more points, Including an impressive 23 point victory against Lebron James’ Clevland Cavaliers squad, and a 1 point victory over the defending NBA Champions, San Antonio Spurs. During this 7 game win streak there has been a resurgence in Brandon Jennings career. Without Smith, Jennings has been averaging 21.6 PPG, 5.8 APG, 52% FG, and 49% 3FG, he also hit the game winning buzzer beater against the Spurs. The team has now hit 79 three pointers in the last 7 games – the most in franchise history over a 7-game stretch. Another impressive performance was given by Jodie Meeks last week, when he dropped 34 points on 9-11 three point attempts, leading the team to 109-86 win over the Magic. The team now appears to be playing together, playing with a new found confidence and energy.
Coach Van Gundy has praised Jennings during this stretch of games, “Brandon was just … outstanding again,” Van Gundy has also liked the leadership the 25 year old point guard has shown.
Although the team has won 7 straight, their next 3 games are all against previous playoff teams and will prove what this teams actually capable of.
“We will have to raise our game another level,” Van Gundy admitted on this weeks upcoming games.
After the recent success of the team, the city of Detroit seems to be reinterested in the sport of basketball. The players on the team are well aware of this. At halftime of the most recent win over the Dallas Mavericks, Brandon Jennings told his team, “We can rest tomorrow, we got 24 minutes to do something big – not just for us – but for the city.”
Have the Pistons turned the corner? At this point in the season they currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 12-23 record, only 3.5 games out of the 8th seed. With 47 games left in the season there is more than enough time to overcome that deficit and make the playoffs ending their streak of 5 straight years without a playoff appearance.