Josh Smith didn't exactly get the royal treatment in his first return to The Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday. Instead, Pistons fans heartily booed Smith in the polarizing Rockets forward's first game back in Detroit after being released by the Pistons in December. The home crowd would eventually be rewarded with a 114-101 Pistons victory.
Smith was spared any harsh treatment during player introductions, because he comes off the bench for coach Kevin McHale. When foul trouble for Donatas Motiejunas forced Smith to enter the game with 8:31 remaining in the first quarter, the boos rained down from all sides and continued as Greg Monroe attempted a free throw.
Smith, 29, signed a four-year, $54 million contract with the Pistons in 2013. During his short tenure with the franchise, Detroit won 29 games in 2013-14, fired coach Maurice Cheeks, chose not to retain interim coach John Loyer, parted ways with long-time president Joe Dumars and got off to a 3-19 start this year. Smith's huge contract, unsightly shooting (41.9 FG% and 26.4 3P% last year) and poor fit alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe made him a popular target of criticism among Pistons fans.
New coach/president Stan Van Gundy ultimately decided to release Smith in December and eat the guaranteed money remaining on his contract. Within a few days, Smith signed with the Rockets, a team contending for a championship. In Houston, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
Smith finished with seven points, seven rebounds and three assists in the loss. James Harden led the Rockets with a team-high 26 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
D.J. Augustin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each scored 28 points to lead the Pistons. Greg Monroe added 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Detroit improved to 18-30. Houston fell to 33-15.