Brandon Jennings Questions Team’s Leadership in Motown
The Detroit Pistons (23-20) have been one of the league’s early surprises to start the 2015-16 campaign and there are numerous positive trends surrounding the franchise. If the playoffs started today, the team would hold the sixth seed in a much improved Eastern Conference. A playoff berth would also snap the franchise’s drought of six campaigns without a postseason appearance. Center Andre Drummond currently leads the league in rebounds per game (15.5) by a sizeable margin and point guard Reggie Jackson continues to improve, ranking 12th in the league in assists (6.6) per game. The Pistons have a group of solid core guys to continue their path back to relevancy.
But do they have the necessary leadership?
Most of the time when the subject of leadership is mentioned, the focus immediately turns to the head coach and his staff. But in the case of the Pistons, locker room leadership at the player level is the subject of focus – especially after veteran guard Brandon Jennings’ recent statements.
According to Rod Beard of the Detroit News, Jennings recently voiced his frustration and called out his team’s lack of leadership on the roster.
#Pistons Jennings: "That’s just being 100 – there’s no leader in this locker room…We do a lot of talking but there’s not a lot of doing."🔥
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) January 22, 2016
The Pistons have made progress but, to put things in perspective, the squad is just 1.5 games ahead of the ninth place New York Knicks and being out of the playoff festivities.
Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy seemingly echoed Jennings’ comments after the team’s latest setback and hinted that the group is comfortable being in the middle of the pack.
“We look like a team that is firmly committed to being mediocre,” Van Gundy said, according to the Associated Press.
Jennings believe a lack of communication may be hindering Detroit from reaching its potential.
“It has to start from the point guards, from me and Reggie,” Jennings said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “We’re the ones controlling everything and doing everything on the court, and we have the ball in our hands 90 percent of the time, so it definitely has to come from us.
“You gotta challenge your teammates. This is a big boys league, so you can’t get in your feelings. Guy says something, say something back, squash it up and let’s go. I just think that’s healthy. Great teams in the league have confrontation. They have guys talking.”
For the most part, Detroit has risen to the occasion versus the league’s better teams – sporting a 15-13 record versus opponents with a .500 or better mark. Detroit also owns a blowout victory over the defending champion Golden State Warriors. But on the flip side, the Pistons are just 8-7 versus teams with a sub .500 record, which speaks volumes about the young team’s inconsistency.
The Houston Rockets re-acquire forward Josh Smith
The reality of NBA free agent signings is that most look much better on paper than in application. The most recent case of this can be found when the Los Angeles Clippers signed forward Josh Smith to a one-year veteran minimum deal last summer. The Clippers spent the offseason reloading a reserve unit in the hopes of getting into title contention.
The franchise signed forward Paul Pierce, Wesley Johnson and Smith, while also adding swingman Lance Stephenson via trade from Charlotte.
Pierce has been effective in spurts but is the latest casualty of Father Time. Johnson has become a regular member of the rotation, but Smith and Stephenson were in competition for the most DNP-CD designations.
But the Clippers’ experiment with Smith came to an abrupt end on Friday.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Houston Rockets have re-acquired Smith in exchange for the draft rights to Sergei Lishouk. The Clippers also sent the Rockets draft rights to Maarty Leunen – although neither guy is expected to ever play in the NBA.
Despite the absence of injured All-Star forward Blake Griffin, Smith remained primarily glued to the bench and watched as unheralded big man Cole Aldrich secured the newly freed up minutes in the nightly rotation.
The Clippers will also reportedly send the remaining $460k of Smith’s remaining salary to Houston as part of the deal but will ultimately save roughly $2 million in luxury tax payments.
Smith averaged 12 points, six rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 blocks in 55 contests for the Rockets last season, a team which defeated the Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.