Detroit Pistons have become a playoff contender since dumping Josh Smith

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A few weeks ago, the Detroit Pistons looked like a flailing team playing for draft position.

Now, after winning eight of 10 games and ridding themselves of Josh Smith, the team has new life.

Yes, they were handled by the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, but they also are now a team with a legitimate shot at making the playoffs in the inferior Eastern Conference.

There are rumors about other teams trying to acquire their top players (Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe), but the recent run even has the Pistons taking themselves out of some of those conversations, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"I think you make adjustments, probably, every week in that regard, of looking at where you are and where you want to be and everything else,” coach and team president Stan Van Gundy told the Free Press. "It doesn't mean you won't do anything, but it certainly, if you continue to play really well, it changes the way you look at it, yeah."

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What happened?

At one point, the Pistons were 5-23 and competing with teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves for the worst record in the game.

Now, even after Wednesday's loss, they're just two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the final playoff spot in the East.

Van Gundy, however, is grounded on where he feels his team is really at.

"Look, we're not where we want to eventually be," Van Gundy told the Free Press. "I love the way we're playing now and, hopefully, the rest of the year will go very well, but we're not gonna rest on that until we're in contention.

"There's a long way from 14-24 to being a contender, and we gotta keep that goal in mind and not get overly wrapped up in playing 10 good games here."

With Smith gone, the scoring and rebounding load has gone to Jennings and Andre Drummond. That includes 34 points and 10 assists from Jennings in a 114-111 win over the Raptors on Monday.

"Brandon was unbelievable," Van Gundy told the Associated Press. "He just put us on his back and carried us."

Pelicans loss worrisome

Wednesday's 105-94 loss to the Pelicans (19-19) was just one game, but alarming aspects. The Pistons managed just three offensive rebounds in the game.

“We brought absolutely no energy whatsoever to the game and that's starting to be a trend,” Van Gundy told the Free Press. “I don't know how much longer we will go with that lineup. We're having to dig out of holes every night. Those guys don't bring a lot of energy to start the game. They're usually OK in the third quarter, but we have to find somebody to energize that group."

Eastern Conference
Detroit Pistons
Central Division

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