Back on Dec. 22, the Detroit Pistons were barely treading water in the middle of a four-game losing streak and an overall record of 5-23. And to make matters worse, Pistons coach and head of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy decided to release veteran forward Josh Smith for zero compensation.
Amazingly enough, the Pistons have put together an impressive seven-game winning streak including hard fought road victories over Cleveland, San Antonio and Dallas. In fact, five of the seven wins have come away from home.
Talk about pure addition by subtraction.
Detroit has become the hottest team in the NBA and Wednesday night’s 108-95 victory in Dallas was total domination as the Pistons never trailed.
But does Van Gundy attribute the team’s new found success to the release of Smith? Not quite.
Photo source: Instagram
Van Gundy said that his team’s success comes from… practice. More specifically, the practice sessions the team held from Dec. 22-24, the days after Smith was released.
“From then on, it’s just been different,” said Van Gundy. “They’ve worked harder. They’ve been more attentive. A lot more together. We don’t have guys that are getting concerned about who’s in the game, or their playing time, or their shots.”
“We don’t have a one-man team,” said guard D.J. Augustin who scored 26 points off the bench in the victory over Dallas. “We have different guys that can contribute every night. It’s fun when we’re playing together like this and we’re winning.”
The Mavericks visited Detroit back on Dec. 17 with Dallas winning 117-106. But after losing on Wednesday to the Pistons, Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons says that the team they faced a few weeks ago compared to the team they faced on Wednesday was totally different.
“Night and day,” Parsons said. “It’s all confidence. They obviously always had the talent, same coach, same players, same system, but they’re playing free and they’re playing confident right now.”
When asked if the team’s success had anything to do with Smith’s release, Van Gundy denied it.
“I had no problems with Josh at all,” Van Gundy said. “Josh worked hard. Josh’s a 10-year vet. I wanted to give other people opportunities, and it was going to cut his time and take the ball out of his hands. I didn’t really think it was fair (to him).”
Wednesday night’s victory over Dallas snapped the Mavericks’ six-game winning streak. Now the Detroit Pistons have a chance to snap another team’s six-game on Friday night back at home at The Palace.
The No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, the Atlanta Hawks, will visit Detroit for a Friday night showdown. Can the Pistons make it seven straight?