AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Joe Dumars hasn't been perfect as Pistons president of basketball operations, but the man can still sell the franchise.
Dumars, new coach Maurice Cheeks and others on the staff decided that their No. 1 target in free agency was Atlanta's Josh Smith. The moment teams were allowed to meet with players -- 12:01 a.m. on July 1 -- Dumars was knocking on Smith's door.
"We knew Josh was the type of player we needed," Dumars said at Smith's official introduction Wednesday. "We had to get more athletic and more talented, and he gives us all of that."
As one of the most-talented players available in a weak crop, Smith was on a lot of lists, and he's seen Detroit's recent struggles close up while playing for the Hawks.
Surprisingly, though, by sunrise on that first morning, he knew he was headed to Detroit.
"When we had our first meeting, Joe had me at the word 'go'," Smith said. "This was my only option. This was where I was going. I never considered anything else."
Smith recognizes that things have been tough lately in Detroit, but he clearly remembers watching the Pistons win the 2004 championship, when he was a senior in high school, then playing against that same team a year later as they headed back to the finals.
He's not old enough to remember the Bad Boys -- he was 3 years old when they won their first title -- but he knows his basketball history.
"This is a franchise that has won mutiple championships, and Joe's been the one guy who had something to do with all of them," Smith said. "I know what he did with Isiah when they got a couple rings, and I played against the team that he built with Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups and all those guys.
"My first year in the league, we came in here and this place was just crazy. I knew then that someday I wanted to play for an organization that had teams like that and had a fanbase like that, and now I'm going to do that."
Smith isn't blind. He witnessed the small crowds at the Palace last season and knows what the team's records have looked like in recent years.
Still, he sees the same ideals and values that built the two great Pistons teams of his lifetime.
"I know they haven't been winning and things haven't been the same the last couple years, but that's not what I was looking at," Smith said. "I'm looking at a team that has Greg Monroe, who is a great post player, a team that has a young guy in Andre Drummond that plays hard every night, a team that has a good up-and-coming point guard in Brandon Knight and a nice rookie guard in Pope.
"With the things that I bring to this team and my ability to give them some veteran leadership, we're a playoff team right now. Give us a couple years to grow together and add a couple more pieces, and we're elite."
By bringing Smith aboard, Dumars hopes that he'll have made it easier on himself when it comes to recruiting the next big-name player. When he was asked if Smith can do for the Pistons what Ivan Rodriguez did for the Tigers, Dumars quickly agreed.
"That's exactly what we think will happen," he said. "We are going to have Josh here for four years, and that is going to show people that this is still a good place to play.
"When you have talented players, more talented players want to join them."
It's mid-July, and it will be a long time before we know what kind of legacy Smith is going to leave in Detroit.
On Day 1, though, with his face plastered on the Palace billboards and he and Dumars posing with his new No. 6 jersey, Smith looked like a man who really wanted to be here.
For the Pistons, that's a good start.