DETROIT -- Stan Van Gundy knows Josh Smith.
He talked to him on the phone Tuesday night when he got the job as the Pistons' new head coach and president of basketball operations.
But he knows him better as an opponent.
Two years in a row, in 2010 and 2011, Van Gundy recalled, his Orlando Magic met Smith's Atlanta Hawks in the NBA playoffs.
"When you get into those situations and you're playing a guy that many times in a year, I think you get to know them as players pretty good," he said.
And while he doesn't yet know what he's getting in the athletic but enigmatic forward, he knows what has been said about Smith, and he doesn't agree.
"I've heard the negatives on Josh and I don't buy them," he said. "I think this guy, he's a hell of a basketball player and it's my responsibility to be able to help him show that on a nightly basis."
Smith, 28, is entering the second year of a four-year, $54-million contract.
He averaged 16.4 points with 6.8 rebounds and better than one block per game in his first season with the Pistons last year.
He's got great athleticism, Van Gundy said. He's a shot blocker. He can score inside.
"He can do everything on a floor," he said.
But the most underrated part of Smith's game, Van Gundy said, is his passing ability.
"I think you put the ball in Josh's hands if a double team or help comes, he will pick you apart with his passing," the coach said. "He's an unselfish passer and a very willing and accurate passer, and I think with Josh, it's simply a matter of putting him in the right spots and getting him to buy into that and believe that you're going to do that."
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