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Pistons' Smith shows he's no ordinary Joe

Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2000

DETROIT -- Joe Smith shouldn't been surprised by the rousing fan reaction to his Detroit Pistons debut.

Days before Detroit signed him, the 6-foot-10 forward was a crowd-pleaser. Fans lavished him with a standing ovation as Pistons general manager Joe Dumars escorted him to a courtside seat during a game against Seattle.

''We Want Joe,'' they chanted that night, Nov. 12. Such was the case again Friday night, when Smith scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting in 20 minutes, fueling Detroit's 118-96 victory over Vancouver.

Afterward, Smith said the crowd's support made him feel good, made him feel accepted. Made him feel like no ordinary Joe.

''You always have to, especially being the new guy, try and impress the fans as much as possible,'' he said.

For now, mission accomplished.

After only one day of practice with the club that signed him last week to a one-year, $2.25 million deal, Smith delivered. He dunked on the Grizzlies, hit jumpers, posted up, took charges and even got a meaningless technical foul -- for hanging too long on the rim after snagging a Chucky Atkins miss in mid-air and slamming it home.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft came down with fists swinging, supplying Detroit with the emotional and physical muscle it needs for a team trying to find its way after star Grant Hill's offseason departure to Orlando.

''I'm not guaranteeing 20 (points) every night, but the effort will be there,'' Smith said.

With Smith on a team wanting to play up-tempo, ''I think we're getting back to where we want to be,'' said Jerry Stackhouse, who had 31 points in extending the Grizzlies' losing streak to seven. ''It's amazing what just having a guy like that does to the other guys. They feel like they know they've got to pick it up now.''

''Good players make other teammates better. That's what he can also do,'' Pistons coach George Irvine said.

New system or not, Smith didn't show rust.

''I think you have to be impressed with the shape he was in,'' Irvine said. ''The fact that he hasn't played for a month and has only benefited from a couple days of my coaching. He was remarkable.

''He is going to help us a great deal.''

Just playing again was a relief to Smith, whose contract with Minnesota was nullified by the NBA after the Timberwolves were caught making a series of secret financial agreements with him.

So started a free-agency stretch that saw Smith courted aggressively by the Dallas Mavericks and Pistons, who had the fans on their side during that home game Nov. 12 when Smith visited.

The Pistons returned the favor Friday night, thanking fans for their recruiting efforts by letting spectators swap ticket stubs for free admission to another game. Smith also chipped in with the highlight-reel, technical-drawing dunk that was as much a release for him as a thrill for Pistons fans.

''That was a lot of emotion, a lot of frustration, a lot of everything just coming all out on one play,'' he said. ''It's been a big relief just to be back on the floor doing what I love to do.''



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