Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars met with Smith for five hours in Los Angeles on July 1 when the NBA’s free agency period began.
“I was selling, selling hard,” Dumars said.
And, Smith was buying.
The Pistons signed Smith to a $54 million, four-year contract Wednesday, when he raved at a news conference about his long talk with Dumars last week.
“I felt comfortable, that’s why the meeting lasted so long,” Smith said.
Smith is the only NBA player to average at least 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and a steal per game since blocks and steals became an official league statistic four decades ago, according to STATS LLC.
“Josh was the No. 1 guy we went after in free agency,” said Dumars, who also acknowledged talking to free agent Andre Iguodala. “The primary reason for Josh being the No. 1 guy was because of his versatility. He’s a 6-9, athletic forward who can play both positions and at both ends of the floor.”
Detroit desperately needed to sign one of the top free agents because the franchise is mired in a four-year postseason drought, its longest since missing six straight from 1978-83.
Smith expects the Pistons will snap the streak next season.
“I feel like we can definitely be a playoff team, and a contender,” he said.
Dumars, though, isn’t ready to say his rebuilding project is complete.
“Knowing a little bit about building championships, you know it’s a long road and you need multiple talented pieces and we just got one talented piece,” said Dumars, who won two titles in Detroit as a shooting guard and led the franchise to a third championship from the front office. “By no means are we even remotely proclaiming (we’re a) championship contender.”
Next week, the Pistons plan to add depth by signing Italian forward Luigi Datome and re-signing backup point guard Will Bynum.
“We’ll still have about $4 million of cap space left, so we’ll keep working,” Dumars said.
The Pistons also confirmed Rasheed Wallace has rejoined the team as a first-year assistant coach on Maurice Cheeks’ staff.
“He’s going to motivate guys, he’s going to push guys and challenge guys,” Dumars said of Wallace, a key player on Detroit’s 2004 NBA championship team. “We thought that would be great for our young bigs.”
The Pistons will likely start the 27-year-old Smith in their frontcourt with 23-year-old power forward Greg Monroe and center Andre Drummond, who turns 20 next in August. The backcourt will include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the No. 8 overall pick in the draft.
“I feel like we can be an elite basketball team,” Smith said.
Smith led Atlanta with 17.5 points per game last season, averaging 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals. He has played only for his hometown Hawks, who drafted him No. 17 overall out of high school in 2004, but he was ready to move on.
“When I first met with Joe, he had me sold from the word ‘go,’” Smith recalled. “This is an organization that is a successful organization. I’ve always wanted to be part of a good organization that has a lot of die-hard fans.”