By: Will Burchfield
When Ish Smith found out the Pistons had dealt Marcus Morris to the Celtics, he said he was “stunned.”
“I’m really tight with Marcus, he’s one of my best friends in the NBA. So it hurt me,” Smith said on Wednesday, after the Pistons’ uniform unveiling at the Nike store in downtown Detroit.
Morris was a big reason why Smith signed a three-year deal with the Pistons last offseason after spending the 2015-16 campaign with the 76ers. The two had first played together on the Suns.
“He was lobbying me the whole year when I was in Philadelphia. Spent one year with him, and some of the talks we had, we got pretty deep,” Smith said.
“I can’t tell you the remorse that I have losing one of my good friends,” he added.
It wasn’t just Smith who had a strong bond with Morris. Most of the players on the Pistons’ roster felt the same way.
By removing him from the locker room, even for a terrific player like Avery Bradley, the front office threatens to disturb the team’s chemistry.
“Yeah, there is a concern with that,” said Stan Van Gundy. “Anytime you make a move, you affect chemistry, and Marcus was an extremely well-liked and extremely well-respected guy in the locker room by both his teammates and the staff. It was an extremely hard move to make.”
The trade came about because the Pistons were unsure how the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope situation was going to play out. Would he demand top dollar as a restricted free agent? Would he sign an offer sheet? Would the Pistons be backed into a corner? Bradley offered them a sure bet at the guard position — plus a whole lot more.
“We did not at any time in the offseason talk about dealing Marcus. That was the furthest thing from our mind,” said Van Gundy. “It really came down to the situation at the guard position and not knowing exactly where the negotiations with KCP would go, the availability of Avery Bradley and the fact that (Morris) was the guy (Boston) had to have in the trade.
“At the end of the day, it was one that we felt we had to do. But it didn’t make it easier to deal a guy like Marcus. Marcus gave us a lot over these past two years and was a universally respected guy in the locker room.”
The plus side is that Bradley carries the same reputation. On top of being a terrific defender and strong shooter, the seven-year vet is known as someone who leads by example.
Smith would know. He played against Bradley in college, entered the NBA the same year (2010) and has forged a relationship with him in the process.
“He’s a team guy, heck of a player. Great defender. Offensively, I think he’s underrated. He can do a lot of things on the offensive end, but he sacrificed so much because of Isaiah (Thomas) having such a big year. So I’m excited about it.”
At the same time the Pistons welcomed in Bradley, they bid farewell to Caldwell-Pope. In a matter of hours, the team parted ways with two of its starters from the previous season.
“Oh, things can change quickly,” said Smith, who has been traded five times and played for 10 different teams in his career.
“I know it was tough on Coach because he had great relationships with those guys,” he added, “but I stand by the decisions our front office has made. I think they’re going to make us better. Whenever you lose two key pieces of your starting lineup it can be difficult, but we’re excited about what we got back.”
Bradley will make the Pistons better in a number of ways. He’ll boost their shooting percentage, he’ll improve their defensive efficiency and he just may help them win a few more games.
There’s no doubting he will have a positive effect on his new team.
Just don’t discount the one you can’t quantity.
“People don’t ever pay attention to the relationships you build. They just pay attention to the basketball and the business standpoint. I look at the biggest thing as the friendship, the families you meet,” said Smith. “That’s the though part, but it is a business and you gotta move on.”