The Cosby Show’s legacy and existence may be retroactively scrubbed and whitewashed from television history as we speak, but Lisa Bonet owes her career to the 77-year-old comic legend.
However, in 1988, the rebellious Bonet was fired from The Cosby Show and reassigned to an NBC spinoff created by Cosby called, A Different World, which revolved around Denise Huxtable’s experiences at fictional HBCU Hillman College. Unfortunately, a pregnant Bonet was written out of the series after season one and the show was reconstituted to focus on the black ensemble cast.
Much of the show’s most memorable moments were the result of Bonet’s departure, including her white leading co-star, played by Marisa Tomei, and other Caucasian Hillman students being scuttled to pave the way for the relationship between pragmatic Kadeem Harrison’s character Dwayne Wayne and Jasmine Guy’s bougie Whitley Gilbert to become the show’s nerve center. Escaping the Cosby Show’s shadow and creating its own unique identity ultimately changed the course of A Different World’s history for the better.
Last time we discussed Josh Smith’s predicament, The Shadow League believed his potential success would impact Daryl Morey’s organizational philosophy and that acquiring one of the league’s most inefficient volume scoring wings would mitigate his Analytics Age movement. To the 2014-15 Detroit Pistons, Josh Smith proved to be as difficult to integrate into a successful system as Lisa Bonet on NBC.
The Pistons which were a scratch n’ sniff lottery team just before Christmas have become the other side of the analytics argument that Houston unconsciously challenged. The Pistons borrowed from Gary Player’s "dump your fiancee" advice to Rory McIlroy and showrunner Stan Van Gundy cut ties with Joe Dumars' final error on Dec. 22.
Seemingly overnight, the Pistons metamorphosed from caterpillars to butterflies and a similar surge in win production has followed.
Their seven-game winning streak, which began on the night of their first post-J-Smoove matchup came to a halt in a 106-103 loss on Jan 9 to the Atlanta Hawks, another franchise prospering without Smith using up possessions. Even that loss came with the caveat of a sick Andre Drummond resting for the final 22:51.
Prior to Dec. 22, the Pistons were the Association’s third-least efficient offense, averaged 97.6 points per 100 possessions and were outscored 8.2 points per 100 possessions.
Between Dec. 22 and Jan. 9, they averaged 111.5 points per 100 possessions, third-in the league during that span.
The tipping point for the Van Gundy may have been a 96-94 loss to Oklahoma City in which Brandon Jennings drove and kicked out to Smith with 4.7 seconds remaining. As his defender scrambled to recover, Smith had the choice of driving past him to the rim. Instead, he launched a brick that landed with the thud of a mortar shell and earned the wrath of YouTube.
Van Gundy’s postgame comments were also openly critical of Smith.
"We only needed a 2," Van Gundy said when asked about Smith's decision not to keep moving into the lane. "So go to the basket or move in. You'd like to move it into a range where he shoots a higher percentage."
Fifteen days later in a generous Christmas gift to salivating contenders, Van Gundy dropped forward Josh Smith into the vast abyss that was the waiver wire.
It was unlikely, that J-Smoove and the $ 26 million remaining on the final two years of the four-year albatross he signed in the Summer of 2013 would be picked up off waivers and once he was digested through waivers, Smith signed a one-year $2 million deal with Houston.
The Rockets had interest in pairing Smith as a power forward alongside his best man Dwight Howard, when he was a free agent and leapt at the opportunity to pluck the 6-8, Slam Dunk Champion from exile.
Call it an NBA spinoff of Obama’s Cash For Clunkers program.
The fortunate part for Smith is that he’ll still have worth in this league moving forward as tanking teams scrape the bottom of the barrel for inefficient players to aid their loss total goals.
Last year, I said he’d be the MVP of the inaugural Asteroid Game, a bizarre All-Star Game dishonor, consisting of the worst minute-for-minute contributors in the league. I may not have given him enough credit. The Pistons seven-game win streak between Dec. 26 and Jan. 7 points to a bleak reality that Smith may be the league’s most crippling talent in 2015.
Everything he touches turns to Fool’s Gold.
Smith was the pin jamming the Pistons systems and preventing them from firing at all cylinders.
Like Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, the Pistons dropped in size and reaped the ensuing fruits of success. Detroit’s recent success can be traced to the floor spacing, as well as an increase in minutes and output from the Jonas Jerebko, Anthony Tolliver and Jodie Meeks trio. The Pistons are making five more threes per game and hitting 40 percent of their attempts during their winning streak.
Josh Smith was using 18 possessions a game for Detroit for 12.8 pts. The new spread of those 18 possessions is garnering 20.2 pts.— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) January 8, 2015
The Pistons young frontcourt of Drummond and Greg Monroe has always been Detroit’s Whitley and Dwayne. Because Smith is out of the picture, Drummond and Monroe are playing fewer minutes per game together, and in turn opened up the lane for Brandon Jennings in the pick and roll.
It’s probably a coincidence that the Atlanta Hawks have reached new heights as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed just two years after Smith spurned them. However, he wasn’t as irreplaceable as many believed he was two years ago.
He’s a low-key JR Smith without the range and insatiable thirst for female R&B stars.
His replacement, Paul Millsap is an efficient scorer who plays lower to the ground than Bilbo Baggins and shoots 47 percent from the field. For all his high-flying, aerial ability, Smith shot 41 percent from the field in 105 games as a Piston and had sunk to a new low of 39 percent during Detroit’s 5-23 start.
Smith has had highs and lows since becoming a Rocket, contrasting his 44 percent shooting percentage with a 17 percent accuracy clip behind the arc and a 31 percent free throw shooting rate.
Smith’s hands are even more of a Spalding graveyard in crunch time.
His -42 plus/minus in the clutch as a Piston (with the clutch metric being defined as the last five minutes of regulation and overtime when the score is within five points) was the league’s worst.
Since Smith’s ejection, Monroe has been the most obvious beneficiary from his unclogging of the paint.
As a casualty of Smith’s burdensome contract, Monroe seemed most likely to make his exit stage left from Detroit this summer. The Pistons may have saved their season and kept Monroe in a Pistons uniform for the foreseeable future.
Without Smith, the Hawks have also cured themselves of the spicy food that was Josh Smith distending their isolation-heavy offensive attack.
Smith would have driven new Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer insane. If you think Mike Woodson and Smith were at odds and that Smith sent Van Gundy up the wall, Smith’s tendencies in Budenholzer’s fluid, ball-sharing offense would have made Sprewell and P.J. Carlesimo seem like an enviable coach-player relationship.
It may be a matter of time until Smith sours on the Rockets. One of the promises, Houston allegedly made to convince Smith to link up with Harden-Howard and Associates was that he would start.
As covered here last night, Houston guaranteed that Josh Smith would be a starter, essentially clinching the Rockets as Smith's choice— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 24, 2014
After five games, Smith’s was removed from Houston’s starting rotation and replaced with seven-foot stretch-4 Donatas Motiejunas.
No longer walking on hot coals with Smith dragging them down, the Pistons are only three games behind Miami for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
The Pistons will play it coy when asked, but Smith was always viewed as the source of their entropy, but nobody ever expected his departure to be this much of a catalyst.
The Pistons are living in a different world than they were three weeks ago, but don't get it twisted. Their reality is a Stan Van Gundy World and they're all just living in it.