The Hawks have been intertwined with the Pistons more so than with any other team in the league over the last year besides the Bucks and the Nets. The Pistons signed Josh Smith, were interested in acquiring Jeff Teague, and took Atlanta's name out of the Brandon Jennings sweepstakes when they completed a sign-and-trade to bring "Bucks-in-six" to Detroit.
Tonight, Smith returns for his first game in the Highlight Factory since last season's disappointing Game-6 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Only this time, obviously, Smith's jersey has different letters across the front. To answer some questions about how Smoove has been treating Detroit and about the night's match-up in general, Brian Packey of Detroit Bad Boys gave us an update.
Question (Daniel Christian): It's Josh Smith's homecoming. Regardless of whether or not the Hawks are better off without him, there is definitely an emotional attachment between the Atlanta native and the fans of the Highlight Factory. I'm sure everyone is interested in an update. How has he been treating Detroit? Does the good outweigh the bad?
Answer (Brian Packey): It's already clear that Smith is going to be a polarizing player in Detroit. The vocal majority at DBB were against his signing because it would often require the Pistons to play him to his weaknesses or naturally let a serious logjam fester that could result in the already-oft-talked-about silliness that would be trading Greg Monroe. Basically, Smith has to be willing to change his mindset and Maurice Cheeks has to find a way to make it work. The returns are mixed and admittedly too early to make any final verdicts, but a big reason the Pistons have lost six of their first 10 games is because Smith's not very good at shooting but loves to chuck it. For instance, he's a career 29 percent three-point shooter and he's averaging almost six threes a game, the most on the team, but these are the shots his coach now expects him to take.
Q: The Hawks were in Brandon Jennings rumors all summer. Those rumors generally consisted of a Teague-Jennings swap. At the end of the day, Milwaukee agreed to a sign-and-trade with Detroit. Which one would you rather have and how do you think Jennings matches up with the Hawks' defense?
A: Brandon Jennings to Detroit kind of came out of nowhere, because all the smoke was about trading for Rajon Rondo. Coincidentally, in a preseason poll of 336 voters on DBB, Teague was 34 percent favorite as to whom fans wanted to be the team's next point guard, receiving 11 percent more votes than Rondo. Personally, I'd rather have Teague, especially with Smith. They're similar in a lot of ways, but Detroit could benefit from a point guard who doesn't like to shoot 15-20 times a game and is actually better at making them when he does. Plus, Teague's locked up for an extra year on a reasonable contract. As for how they will match up tonight, Jennings may not even play because he became ill during last night's game. If he does play, I just hope "human nature" doesn't take over and he continues to play point guard, as he did last night when the other nature apparently kept calling.
Q: Andre Drummond is a monster. He's one of the more exciting young players in the league. What type of night do you think he'll have against Atlanta? What's the projection for the rest of the season? But here's the actually important Drummond question: are he and Jennette McCurdy still a thing?
A: Andre Drummond has had five consecutive double-doubles, so unless he gets into foul trouble or he's limited in any way due to it being the back end of a back-to-back, I suspect he'll get his 12 and 12, and I'm sure he'll manufacture some slam-dunk shot highlights for the fans at "The Highlight Factory." What we're getting out of him now -- 12 points, 12 rebounds, a couple blocks and a very high shooting percentage (67 percent) -- is probably what we'll get all season, because he mostly just cleans up and catches lobs. He is a quiet dominating presence, if that makes sense. Incidentally, those numbers are almost precisely what DBB writer Ben Gulker predicted him to produce this season. (I'm not sure anyone would've guessed he'd be shooting 18 percent from the line, though, especially after a promising preseason there). As for his dating life, I have no idea if he and Jennette McCurdy are still a thing. I'm happy to admit I had no idea who she was until they did become "a thing", but I'm sure she's cool -- Drummond seems to be an extremely likable guy based on his proficient tweeting and Instagramming. After last night's game, he hung out with Jesse Eisenberg and Doug from the Hangovers.
Q: Who do you think wins the game on Wednesday night? If it's the Pistons, what was the most important thing they did to secure the win?
A: I'd like to think the Pistons will win, but it would require efficiency from both Smith and Jennings, which is a rarity, and preventing Kyle Korver from making a lot of threes, as I'm terrified he's going to do against the Pistons' really poor perimeter defense. If I were a betting man, I'd say Hawks give Smith a rude homecoming and cover a five-point spread.
My take: It's a big day for Atlanta. OutKast is back. Josh Smith is returning, albeit with another team. But we still love him, so he should get a standing ovation. The Falcons didn't lose today. The Nets play the Bobcats, so we can still dream of swapping picks and drafting Wiggins/Randle/Parker despite its infeasibility. I think the Hawks win tonight but Smoove plays well and the crowd loves it. Ain't no thang but a chicken wang, right?