Pistons’ Ish Smith ready to “hold down the fort”
Smith signed a three-year $18 million deal this offseason and figured to play backup to Jackson, but will see a much more important role in the system until his return.
“You know how it is,” Smith told Aaron McMann of MLive. “When the opportunity comes, you’ve got to step in and hold down the fort until Reggie gets back. That’s what I have got to do.”
The 6-foot point guard has been the ultimate NBA journeyman, playing for nine teams during his short six-year career. Smith finally found his niche in Philadelphia, where he started 50 games last season.
The 28-year-old saw career-highs across the board, averaging 14.7 points, 7.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals. But most importantly, he saw consistent minutes (32.4) for the first time in his career.
Funny enough, the bottom-dwelling Sixers were the platform he needed to jumpstart his career, cashing in on his production with Detroit.
Jackson’s tendinitis could likely keep him out from six to eight weeks, at which point he’ll be reevaluated and prepare for his return. Smith will be tasked with leading the Pistons until Jackson’s impending return.
“He’s not a good friend of mine, he’s a great friend of mine,” Smith said of Jackson. “I’ve known Reggie since college, and I know for us to be really, really good, to be where we want to be, we need all 18 guys.”
“I’ll say a prayer for him, for a speedy recovery. We need him so we can make this push we’re trying to make.”
While not the shooter that Jackson is, Smith presents a lot of the same qualities. He’s a drive-and-kick point guard who goes fearlessly to the rack and looks for open teammates.
His size will likely deter him from being able to finish with contact and take advantage of smaller matchups, but he will exploit defenders with his speed and create opportunities for others.
As a new player in the team, Ish Smith will look to follow the lead of the veteran players around him and his coach Stan Van Gundy.
“For me, before you lead you’ve got to follow,” Smith said. “So I’m going to follow the guys – wherever I’ve got to go, whatever they want me to do. Whatever the coach wants me to do, that’s what I’m going to do.
“And I know Reggie is going to be in my ear during the time he’s out.”