- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - Free agent Josh Smith, released by the Detroit Pistons this week, joined the Rockets on Friday in a move aimed at strengthening Houston’s frontcourt.

The signing was announced by general manager Daryl Morey and reunites the 6-foot-9 forward with AAU teammate and longtime friend Dwight Howard, who is in his second season in Houston.

Smith should provide a boost for a team that has played the last 23 games without starting power forward Terrence Jones. Jones averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, but is out indefinitely with nerve inflammation in his left leg.

Smith signed a four-year, $54 million contract with Detroit in July 2013. He has averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds during his 11-year career. He averaged 13.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28 games this season. He also is averaging 4.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.7 blocks this season.

The Rockets (20-7) play Memphis on Friday night and can overtake the Grizzlies for the Southwest Division lead. Houston waived rookie Tarik Black to make roster room for Smith.

Smith spent his first nine seasons with the Hawks, where he averaged 15.3 points and eight rebounds, before signing with the Pistons. He has appeared in 52 playoff games, averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.

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