Josh Smith was benched by the Detroit Pistons Friday night in obvious reaction to his erratic start. Kyle Singler took his place.
For now, Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks should stick to his guns and keep Singler in the lineup until Smith gives some evidence he’s able to earn his four-year $54 million NBA contract. The move didn’t help the Pistons defeat the Atlanta Hawks. They fell to 4-8 with a 96-89 setback to the Hawks.
But Singler still showed he could be an outstanding starter for the Pistons. Granted, it’s only one game but what a game it was.
While most of this teammates struggled, Singler didn’t miss a beat in 41 minutes, 14 seconds of action. He was 9-of-13 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line for 22 points while grabbing three rebounds and one assist. In his first 11 games, Singler was averaging only 6.3 points and 2.8 rebounds while averaging 22.4 minutes. He was averaging more than five minutes less than a year ago when he was a starter.
It’s too early to say if Smith is going to be a free-agent signing bust for the Pistons, similar to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. But for now, Singler should be a starter. Smith has a chance to contribute but he has to show his coaches he can do the job. As a sub in 19 minutes, 32 seconds of action Friday, he was 0-of-7 from the floor for no points but he did get seven rebounds.
It’s a no brainer for Cheeks to keep Singler in the starting lineup.