“I put the ‘I’ in team like no other/actually, I’m not contractually obliged to share.” This is a lyric from the song “Chartjunk” by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks from their newly released album Wig Out at Jagbags. In this track, Malkmus imagines a bickering exchange between Brandon Jennings and his ex-coach Scott Skiles and how Jennings’ preference of hogging the ball, step-back threes and “layin’ sweet feeds on my homies” displeasures the “know-it-all” former player in Skiles.
With the Detroit Pistons currently slumping and things looking murky, I couldn’t help but laugh at how relatable this track could be to the relationship Jennings has now with Maurice Cheeks. And not only Jennings’ relationship with Cheeks, but Josh Smith’s relationship with Cheeks. (Ironically, there’s another track on Wig Out at Jagbags titled “J-Smoov”)
The Pistons have lost four straight games and have dropped five in a row at home leading to a lousy 6-12 record at The Palace. The second half debacle Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies saw the Pistons at their season low and signified a team in need of hitting the proverbial reset button.
The two players in need of hitting that button the most are the two aforementioned Piston newcomers: Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith.
Jennings and Smith have shot horrendously from the field and continue their long ridiculed habit of taking bad and untimely shots. Both players average around a brutal 6-for-15 clip from the field per contest. This is something that must change if the Pistons plan on holding off the suddenly surging Brooklyn Nets from nipping at their heels for the 8-spot in the East.
The Pistons’ playoff hopes are in good spirit due to the Eastern Conference tankfest, but a 14-20 record at this point seems totally unacceptable for a team as talented (and healthy) as theirs.
If there was ever a time these two tremendously talented individuals decided to clean up their game and bag the nonsense, why not now?
Cheeks needs to find a way to relay this message to his two egocentric stars. In Jennings’ case, it seems as if the message has started to process. Jennings is averaging a career-high 8.3 assists per game and has pulled back a bit from the usual black hole he was in Milwaukee and what Malkmus referenced in his song. The fight with Jennings will be finding a way to balance the dishing and the gun-slinging, and doing which ever one at the appropriate time. Sunday was a good example of this; Jennings had eight assists in the first quarter, yet he only finished with 11 while shooting 2-for-14 from the field.
Smith, on the other hand, needs to utilize his frame and athletic ability. Playing around the rim and locking in defensively will be the key to getting back into Cheeks’ and the fans’ good graces. Smith needs to show consistency; everyone isn’t expecting a home run every night like his brilliant performance against the Kings early in the season, but these 6-for-17, olé defensive nights like he had Sunday (and a lot of other nights) need to be shelved.
The clock is ticking and patience is wearing thin in Detroit. Cheeks needs to get the troops refocused and back in line if the team plans on pushing their way up the mediocre Eastern Conference ladder.