WASHINGTON -- It seems like the Detroit Pistons are unable to get through a season without player-coach drama.
And the seemingly annual occurrence is upon us after the Pistons took a 106-82 thumping from the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks benched starting forward Josh Smith for the start of the third quarter for the second time this season and Smith made it clear afterward that he was bothered by it.
"I live to play this basketball game," Smith said in the Verizon Center visitor's locker room. "It's an honor for me to play it. When anybody challenges or anything about the fact about me not wanting to play I take real offense to it.
"Whatever decision that somebody makes beyond my control I can't control it. It's a question you have to ask somebody that has that power."
It was expected the Pistons would come out with a better effort after the stinker Friday night at Orlando, but funk continued.
The defense was a shambles as John Wall was a one-man fast break. His penetration led to easy baskets and the lead steadily grew throughout the first half.
After Bradley Beal erupted for 10 points in the last 3:53 of the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 62-41 runaway by halftime Cheeks obviously had seen enough.
He didn't add much light into the decision to bench Smith -- although he was quick to add that he benched rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to start the second half as well -- although Caldwell-Pope did play in the second half.
"We can talk about the game," Cheeks said. "The game wasn't about Josh Smith. The game was we got beat.
"We got beat, we got beat pretty good. It wasn't because of Josh Smith, it was the overall game. It wasn't just because of Josh Smith."
But Smith admitted it's hard not to feel singled out.
"I mean it's unfair because as I told you before I play this game hard each and every day," Smith said. "When I younger I would play this game for free year round. This is what I love to do so why wouldn't I want to come out here and try to put my best foot forward every time I step out on the court."
Benching Smith raises eyebrows because he's the team's highest paid player and he was one of the best free agents available in the off-season.
"My job is to try and win games," Cheeks said of Smith's status. "That's it, that's my job, I just try to do the best I can.
"I can't get into free agent here or free agent there, I can't get into that. My job is to try and win games."
Smith was benched at Golden State earlier this season. He was also disciplined and didn't start a home game against the Hawks after he skipped a practice. After a loss at Atlanta, Cheeks hastily called a practice for the next day in Detroit -- although it came after a back-to-back. Teams seldom practice in such situations. Smith had planned on remaining in his hometown of Atlanta for the scheduled off day and declined to return to Detroit for the practice -- citing his ill father, who didn't attend the game in Atlanta. Smith was held out of the starting lineup the next game -- this time a home contest against the Hawks, although he did play.
Cheeks said he "assumed" Smith will start Monday's rematch with the Wizards at the Palace.
Will the two have a talk before then?
"To me it's over with, but some people hold grudges longer than others," Smith said. "I don't know, I'm not saying he does. I'm not the type of person that really likes to go all the time in the coach's office and have one-on-one sit downs.
"I'm more of a team morale guy, worrying about what you can do as far as teammates are concerned to make ourselves more successful."
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