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  • BASKETBALL

    Smith's arrival likely to send Singler to bench

  • ORLANDO, Fla. — The question for Andre Drummond was straight and to the point.
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  • ORLANDO, Fla. — The question for Andre Drummond was straight and to the point.
    Are the Pistons a playoff team?
    Drummond's response was just as matter of fact.
    "I thought we were a playoff team last year," the second-year center said Sunday after the Pistons' victory over the Nets to open summer-league play. "I never doubt our team. Even before, even without him, I thought we were a playoff team."
    "Him" is Pistons free-agent acquisition Josh Smith, who agreed to a four-year, $54-million deal Saturday.
    The team can't officially announce the move until Wednesday, when the league's moratorium ends, but the most important work to improve the Pistons' fortunes is happening this week during summer-league play.
    Not only are members of the group's young core working at improving basketball skills. There also is a growing confidence that they are more than capable of turning the franchise around — with or without Smith, who undoubtedly makes the Pistons better on paper.
    "That's just who I am as a person," Drummond said. "I got confidence in my teammates and my coaching staff and everything is going to be great."
    It might be youthful bravado, but the organization has to be pleased to hear such words. Teams want guys who are not waiting around for outside help.
    All that said, the Pistons realize Smith is coming to help.
    They plan on playing Smith at the small forward. They want to create an imposing frontline with Drummond at center and Greg Monroe at power forward.
    That would leave Medford's Kyle Singler as the odd man out in the starting lineup. He started 74 games last season during his rookie year, but it's obvious he goes to the bench.
    Singler said that's understandable considering Smith's reputation as one of the best two-way players in the game.
    "I don't take it personally," Singler said. "It's a great challenge. I'm always about the team and whatever is going to help the team I'm definitely for.
    "To have a guy like that to look to and improve myself, I'm looking forward to it."
    Drummond is already envisioning Smith adding his shot-blocking prowess to the team.
    "It takes a little bit of stress off both me and (Monroe)," Drummond said. "If one of us gets beat, we know we got a third person coming to beat a shot up."
    The players are aware that Smith causes expectations to rise and creates speculation about Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars' next move.
    But aside from normal curiosity, the players aren't looking for the cavalry.
    "Fans and outside people are going to say what they say," third-year point guard Brandon Knight said, "believe what they believe and think we should get that person or that person.
    "But me as a Pistons player, I have to focus on what we have and what we're doing here. I'm not concerned about who may come or who fans want or any of that stuff. It's all about the organization and who the Pistons have right now. You never know what's going to happen, but for us to improve, we have to work on what we know, and that's who we have in this room right now."
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