Vivlamore reporting following Hawks media day.
Josh Smith may not hear the groans from the Philips Arena crowd when he squares up to take a 3-pointer this season.
Why? Listen to Smith tell it.
“You haven’t seen the roster?” Smith turned around a reporter’s question about his long-range shooting plans on a rebuilt Hawks roster. “We’ve got Kyle Korver, Devin Harris, Louis Williams, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver. Am I missing anyone? Jeff Teague. … So there we go. That answers that question. I didn’t even say my name did I? Call me mid-range shawty.”
Smith is one of only five returning players from last season’s team as practice begin Tuesday for the 2012-13 season. He remained as the Hawks, under the direction of new general manager Danny Ferry, rebuilt a franchise that made the playoffs five straight seasons. Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams are no longer here. Smith is the longest-tenured Hawk and enters his ninth season, all with his hometown team after being drafted in 2004 out of high school.
It wasn’t a guarantee he would remain in Atlanta. Smith heard his name come up in one trade rumor after another. Then again, he’s used to it.
He played flag football during the summer with friend Rajon Rondo and it turned into talk that he was headed to Boston to rejoin his high school roommate.
“There’s been talk about that since I’ve been here,” Smith said on constant trade rumors.
Smith, 26, is entering the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ferry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it is “unlikely” the two sides will reach a new deal before the offseason. It doesn’t mean Smith is playing his last season in Atlanta. He could sign an extension before June 30, but it would be for a maximum of three years. After that date he could sign a new contract for a maximum of five years and worth just under $100 million. There is risk involved, for player and coach, but one both sides are willing to make.
“My mindset is making it to the playoffs,” Smith said. “I’m not worrying about any contract discussions. I think the team and I are on the same page. We know what we are going to do. My main concern is making the playoffs and winning basketball games.”
It is a big season for Smith. He knows it. The organization knows it. If the “semi-rebuilding” Hawks, as Smith puts it, are not to take a step backward he must improve his game. Both Ferry and coach Larry Drew said it is their job to help Smith reach another level, one that may be necessary for this team to succeed.
“I think he has improved his outside shot,” Drew said. “I think he has to be a little bit more selective with his outside shot. He has certainly improved his low post game. I still think he can be even better. I think he’s one of the best power forwards in our league in rebounding out of his space and getting the ball and initiating the break. I think he is one of the best defenders in our league because he can defend all five positions. I think he is one of the smartest basketball players that I’ve coached. This guy sees things before they even take place. He is a student of the game. He watches a lot of film. Does he have to be better in how to deal with the officials? Yes he does.
“I think his overall game, his overall approach, he has to improve in all those areas. I think he knows that.”
Smith said he continued his off-season training program, working out in California before joining teammates in Atlanta for informal workouts. However, he added a wrinkle this year. In a move that Smith said shows the seriousness of the task at hand, he worked with a strength and conditioning coach in Los Angeles. It was a first for him. He was on a weight-lifting regime aimed at keeping up his strength for an 82-game season.
Smith said he had a pretty good idea roster changes were on the way. Now, it’s time to put the new-look Hawks into action.
“I’m all for change,” Smith said. “I think with the unit we had for the last five years, we just felt ourselves stuck in one place. We couldn’t get out of it, like we were stuck in cement. If you are a new GM coming in and you see the history of what has been happening the last five years, you do applaud us but at the same time you have to wonder how long can this last? [Ferry] came in with the mindset of trying to do things the right way. … I have total faith in him that he is doing the right thing for this organization.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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