Hawks and Josh Smith may have had enough of each other

When Josh Smith dominates, as he did in Game 4 against Chicago, he's a Hawks' fan favorite. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

When Josh Smith dominates, as he did in Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls, he's a favorite of Hawks fans. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

For seven seasons, Josh Smith has shown us that he can be the best player on the floor. For seven seasons, he has shown us that he can be the worst player on the floor. The fact these opposites often appear in the same game is what makes him so maddening.

This is why after seven seasons, it’s time to say goodbye.

Smith is not the biggest problem on the Hawks’ roster, he’s merely the greatest lightning rod for criticism. He’s not the player who has crippled the payroll and just followed the richest contract in NBA history — $123,658,089 — with his least-productive season. That would be Joe Johnson.

For as much as Smith is hammered for launching three-point shots, he had a better shooting percentage from three-range this season (33.1 percent) than Johnson (29.7). Johnson battled some injuries (elbow, thumb). But so did Smith (knee), and he’s not supposed to be a three-point shooter. So who should we scream louder about?

Here’s the problem: Smith clearly is getting fed up as the Hawks’ player who’s constantly being duct-taped to a post in the middle of the town square.

I spoke to him the day following one bad shooting performance in the playoffs and he said, “I know sometimes I take shots I shouldn’t. But I’m not the only one in here who takes bad shots. I just get talked about more than anybody else.”

There is some truth to that. There’s also some truth to the fact that some of coach Larry Drew’s offensive sets leave Smith out in the corner,  away from the basket, although that doesn’t mean he has to shoot from out there.

Smith’s slow boil continued when Drew called him out following a poor performance in Game 2 of the Chicago playoff series. (“I want him flying all over the place. I don’t want him sitting out there just shooting jump shots and trying to make plays off the dribble.”)

Then, following his phenomenal Game 4 performance against the Bulls (23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, one steal), Smith seized the moment.

“The media is trying to ‘T.O.’ me,” he said, referencing NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, a frequent target of blame.

He called his relationship with fans “a love-hate thing.” There’s no reason to believe that’s going to change.

The Hawks might finally be willing to trade Smith. But equally important is that Smith may actually welcome a trade. He needs a fresh start, with a new organization, new teammates and new fans – all some place far away from his hometown.

For as much as Smith is criticized, he is not a bad guy. He’s a good guy. He wants to succeed. He wants to be accepted and appreciated as much as anybody — if not more so, because he’s from Atlanta.

We get on the Hawks for sometimes looking like they just don’t care. That generally isn’t the problem with Smith. It’s more about him going after solutions in the wrong way.

The risk of trading Smith is that he finally turns into that consistent game-changer we’ve envisioned since his rookie season. The downside to not trading him now is if he doesn’t become that soon, his value on the trade market will plummet.

Hawks general manager Rick Sund wanted to give the core of this team one more chance to show what it can do. There was improvement this postseason – upsetting Orlando and taking Chicago to six games without their starting point guard – but this probably is as far as this unit can go.

Johnson can’t be traded because of his contract. Al Horford won’t be traded because he’s the team’s most consistent player. Jeff Teague suddenly shows promise. That leaves Smith as the only player who other teams really want. They see great potential without a long-term commitment (two years left on his contract).

Dealing Smith gives the Hawks a chance to acquire a legitimate starting center. Teague’s ascent opens the possibility of including Kirk Hinrich and his expiring $8.1 million contract in the trade.

There are options. But after seven years, Smith’s exit would be beneficial for both parties.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

414 comments Add your comment

CONservative Johnson

May 21st, 2011
4:25 pm

Al Horford gets a free pass as usual. And it is based purely on personalities rather than game. He STUNK big time in the playoffs again; he’s either scared or unwilling to challenge decent bigs (begged to not face them in fact). If he’s so great, he should bring back good things in a trade . . .

The Game Has Changed

May 21st, 2011
4:37 pm

Josh is not our problem. Eventhough he is a headache. If the Hawks plan on winning, they have to go over the luxury tax. You have to be aggresive. In order for us to be a true contender and beat Miami or Chicago next year we need a center and a pure three point shooter. Not a backup type center. We have 5 of those. With the team we have now not including Jamal we are a number 5 or 6 seed again. With a couple of moves to bring in a center and a pure shooter (without giving up much) we can make some noise next year.

P. Bull Terrier

May 21st, 2011
4:43 pm

It is sad that mismanagement has backed the Hawks into a corner so that their only hope of improvement is to trade their most talented player for someone who isn’t likely to make much of a difference anyway. Josh was raw with incredible potential when he entered the league and he’s still virtually the same player. Maybe it’s because Josh is uncoachable, but I think it’s more likely that he just hasn’t had a good coach. Being part of a leaderless team all these years hasn’t helped either. The truth is that the Hawks are as good as they’re going to get until JJ’s contract expires.

AlHorfordSucks

May 21st, 2011
4:48 pm

Hey Chem, Did u watch the playoffs at all clown. Al Horford never was and never will be a top 5 anything. He’s flat footed, has no atheleticism, cant block shots, and has no left hand or post moves. Gimme a break, if anyone should be traded its him.

tony

May 21st, 2011
4:57 pm

Since Josh Smith have had enough as a hawk and since Tony Parker think the Spurs is getting too old, we should trade Josh to San Antonio for Manu Ginobili. We can move JJ too sf and move Al too pf.

1 JT
2 Manu Ginobili
3 JJ
4 AH
5 Tyson Chandler(The only decent big available)

Time

May 21st, 2011
5:09 pm

It’s time to say goodbye to Jeff Schultz. Along with half of the people who have the nerve to call themselves Hawks “fans”

Time

May 21st, 2011
5:12 pm

And 100 percent agree with the few intelligent fans around here that are wondering why noone ever holds Horford accountable. Is it because he’s got a big pretty smile? Is it because you think he’s a nice guy? Is it because there’s a massive UF base in ATL? It’s certainly not because he’s a tough playing, tough minded big man. He’s a soft as warm butter, yet it seems the AJC and most of these supposed fans can’t see it through their ignorant Josh bashing.

jamillion

May 21st, 2011
5:13 pm

I WOULDN’T TRADE JEFF TEAGUE FOR IGUODALA,LET ALONE JOSH SMITH,WE HAVE TO POINT THE BLAME ON SOMEONE BUT LIKE THE ARTICLE SAYS JJ SHOOTS 29% FROM BEHIND THE ARC BUT JOSH HAS THE SECOND BEST 3 ON THE TEAM AND WE CRITIQUE HIS SHOT,YOU TRAILER PART IGNORANT FANS NEED TO WATCH THE GAME,TRUE HE WILL TURN THE BALL OVER BUT WHO ON THIS TEAM NOT NAMED TEAGUE WON’T. I SAY TRADE HORFORD & DUCK, AND NOT FOR SOME YOUNG PLAYER TO DEVELOP BUT FOR GOOD VETERAN HELP OR SIGN AND TRADE JAMAL,DUCK AND A PICK FOR A NICE CENTER OR JUST SIGN ONE.IT”S NOT LIKE WE NEED A COMPLETE OVER HAUL PEOPLE,WE ACTUALLY WERE JUST OUT COACHED. BRING IN HUBIE BROWN LIKE I”VE BEEN WANTING FOR THE LAST 3 YEARS AND WE”D BE IN THE ECF EVERY YEAR JUST OFF COACHING ALONE

Ray

May 21st, 2011
5:15 pm

You know it’s sad that the only player that seem to give a crap after the first game in the Chicago series is now taking heat for something that isn’t his fault.

I say if you trade anyone or cut anyone trade the following Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Jamal Crawford.

Why Al because after that New York game during the season when Horford tried to talk big about Amare guess what happened Amare ate his lunch and then some and since then Horford went extremely soft.

Why Joe look what happened to him not much needs to be said about that and yes his contract can be moved you’d be surprised.

Why Jamal dude disappeared last off-season when they said no about a contract extension.

Marvin he’s just Marvin get him out of here at least before it’s like well he doesn’t affect the game much now it’s just you’re not even there anymore.

Marvin will be a 20 ppg scorer

May 21st, 2011
5:19 pm

Marvin was around 14ppg for 3 years until Jamal and his 1000 shots came..In the playoffs, if he did not come up big in game 6 against Orlando, the Hawks lose…And Game 7 would have been ugly!..If we trade him, The Hawks will regret it for 10 years!..Just like jordan crawford

Ted M

May 21st, 2011
5:20 pm

It would be more beneficial for Smith then the Hawks.

Marvin will be a 20 ppg scorer

May 21st, 2011
5:23 pm

The main guy who has to traded is JOE MAX…Hawks fans refuse to blame Joe..they rather blame Marvin, Josh and now for some strange reason AL?…I say Joe to Cleveland for the 4th pick straight up….If orlando traded Reshard Lewis contract we can trade Joe’s!..He had maybe 3 good games in the playoffs?…

J.J.M.

May 21st, 2011
5:24 pm

Enasty357 horford didnt take advantage when boozer guarded him he passed away all his open shots not just noah

Unbelievable

May 21st, 2011
5:26 pm

If you let these morons trade Smith they’ll probably let him go for Shelden Williams and a 2nd round pick. Please wait to trade Josh until competent ownership gets in here!

bama52

May 21st, 2011
5:28 pm

No don’t get rid of Josh. Do what Dallas and OKC did,get a bench. We’ve found a PG who can push the ball score and defend. We are not going to get Josh equal, go into free agency get players like Prince (Detroit),Jamison (Cleveland) or J. Childress. I wanted to keep J Childress over M Williams because of his ability to defend and play at three positions PG,PF, and SF. Our team will change next year with Kirk and Jeff working PG and we must play our bench. G Wilkins,Za Za,Pape Sy,got to play more. Pape is going to help us a lot.

GTT

May 21st, 2011
5:42 pm

Joe Johnson’s contract is sooo beyond ridiculous. NOBODY else would have given him ANYTHING CLOSE. So, again, WHY? So many of us last year said it’s going to hamstring the team for years and it will. Dang.

Wabe

May 21st, 2011
5:44 pm

Unless you plan on filling the void Smith fills inside defensively, this isn’t logical. I understand folks frustrations, and I’m of those who often gets very frustrated with J.Smith.

But, J.Smith literally played defense for two when he and Horford were at the 4 and 5 in the playoffs.

Offensively, Horford has no post game. J.Smith actually does. I know he gets frustrating to watch offensively, but he’s the lone guy on this roster that has the ability to bang inside and actually get easy buckets for the Hawks if his mind is to it.

I know most here are tired of seeing whether Smith’s mind is to it. But, this is all the reason why it would be wise for the Hawks to look for coaches would command Smith’s respect and/or who would hold Smith accountable for his antics rather than settling for the minimum wage coaches they tend to settle for. Although Drew had a pretty good showing in his first go-around in the playoffs from an X’s and O’s standpoint, he still doesn’t get these guys up from a mental aspect.

Attitude reflects leadership? Well, all too often the Hawks plain don’t show up. Sure, most of this is on the players, but get a coach in here who wouldn’t settle for that bullstuff, and you’re not seeing the Hawks schizophrenic ways as often.

But, with Smith, get another defensive prescence in here who could also buy the Hawks some easy buckets inside, and this would make sense. If you’re relying on Horford to pick up the slack for Smith, don’t hold your breath. Dude came off mighty soft in these playoffs.

SEASONTICKETHOLDER

May 21st, 2011
5:44 pm

KEEP JOSH SMITH! Who are these Hawks bloggers. Have you ever been to a game? Have you ever watched them on t.v before the playoffs? Sometimey fans make stupid bloggers. Change will happen lets just hope its smart.

GTT

May 21st, 2011
5:44 pm

Nobody will trade for Joe, Marvin will be a 20 ppg scorer. Nobody. We’re stuck with a decent player, on the decline, who is way more overpaid than anybody else in the league.

LakeDawg

May 21st, 2011
5:46 pm

Got to get rid of Smoove. The Hawks need to bring in a leader and Smoove would resent anybody coming in as a leader, probably poisoning the weak minds of the rest of the team. I think JJ would actually be a great number two if someone came in and relieved him of the leader status, which he wants no part of.

bama52

May 21st, 2011
5:47 pm

There’s no team out there will take josh for a legitimate center. Unless its the Lakers and they are not trading Gasol or Bynum for Josh. Marvin and Jamal if possible are the only people we could trade. The team is not bad we need to come out of that isolation offense, Joe Johnson and J Crawford shouldn’t be bringing the ball up court they need to get in a shooting position asap.If they can’t get a easy shot pass the ball Teague or Kirk and the rest of their teammates make good decisions.One game in the playoff against the Bulls there were 10.4 sec left before half we were down by 10 JJ walked the ball up the court and turned it over. Teague should be pushing the ball towards the basket in a situation like that, Teague And Kirk are ready let them run the offense.

chem

May 21st, 2011
5:56 pm

@ AlHorfordSucks — The column was about shopping Josh Smith. My point was that Horford wouldn’t be nearly as highly regarded as a PF rather than C and whomever replaces Horford at C wouldn’t be as good at C as Josh Smith is at PF. You’s confused.

Juice

May 21st, 2011
5:57 pm

The next time Josh hustles on defense……..will be his first time…

chem

May 21st, 2011
5:58 pm

@ Cousins Vicker — Are you suggesting Jason Collins is a better C than Horford because he was chosen to hack at Howard? That’s just ridiculous.

chem

May 21st, 2011
6:02 pm

@ Cousins Vicker — Are you suggesting that Collins is a better C than Horford because he was chosen to hack Howard in the playoffs? That’s just ridiculous. Collins on Howard freed up Horford on the offensive end of the floor.

Atlanta-made 1951

May 21st, 2011
6:03 pm

Have the Hawks ever made a good trade?
ROY and future all-star Paul Silas for worthless white guy just to have one.
Nique for Manning when we were in first place. (the dumbest Atlanta trade ever in any sport)
The current Hinrich deal. (of course he gets injured)

Mama Gasol

May 21st, 2011
6:03 pm

Everybody clamoring for a trade to get Pau Gasol wants the wrong Gasol. Marc, a center, is the perfect fit and a free agent. I’d say his presence made Randolph a better power forward.

Atlanta-made 1951

May 21st, 2011
6:05 pm

BTW you’ll be able to hear Bibby’s laughter from Miami should the Heat win it all.

dirtyo11

May 21st, 2011
6:07 pm

Trade Smith or Hordford along with Williams and try to get Howard or Bynum. What about trading Smith and Hinrich to Phoenix for Gortat and Petritus, Dallas for Hayward and Caron Butler or to Denver for J.R. Smith and Nene. Do a sign and trade deal to get either Granger, Gay, Gasol or Beasley for Crawford. Take a chance on signing Oden would be a gamble but it would be worth it if you sign him for a 1 yr deal.

I really think we can get Hayward and Butler from Dallas, espically if Dallas win it all.We need a 7 footer and scrapy on ball defender that can cover the 3 & 2 position in order to compete with the elite teams in the east.

cdog

May 21st, 2011
6:08 pm

rick sund isn’t no posttion to give anyone another chance. he is the problem not josh smith.when sund is no longer associated with the hawks only then will they play for the title

John

May 21st, 2011
6:16 pm

The Hawks are screwed they aren’t gonna be a championship contender for awhile they need to find a team that will take Joe Johnson contract.

Unbelievable

May 21st, 2011
6:26 pm

@Bama52- Why do you think Pape will help us or even at all? I ask because Jeff Teague was a 1st round pick and it took and injury for him to see any significant time. I can’t remember the last time this team developed anyone. I just don’t see Pape getting a shot here even if he is talented.

daddydog

May 21st, 2011
6:41 pm

Josh gets the heat – and some of it deservingly so. But Al is the 1 who disappeared in the 2nd round and became just a jump shooter.
What this team most needs is a strong coach, not 1 who only makes suggestions.

Devil's Advocate

May 21st, 2011
6:45 pm

The fact of the matter is that the Hawks are 1 “take charge” player away from being a legit NBA Finals contender. Joe is supposed to be that guy but he’s not. He’s slightly better than Scottie Pippen athletically but with less emotional drive. Either way, he’s not a #1 as I said before. The Hawks have the deepest cast of supporting players in the NBA and perhaps NBA history. Food for thought…

JSS

May 21st, 2011
6:56 pm

“So who should we scream louder about?”
Horford, Williams, the missed opportunity of Teague…

Jeff Schultz, Johnson does not cripple you yet, he’s two years away from being a cap burden. The pain comes from Marvin, Jamal, and Zaza. Add that with Bibby, now Hinrich and do the math… They had a trade exception and did nothing with it at all… It is going to go away the day of the draft…

“I can’t remember the last time this team developed anyone.” Jason Terry…
That team and Terry Stotts was so clueless that he never would look good until he got his confidence back…

OK, more scripts to read… What a week!

LakeDawg

May 21st, 2011
6:57 pm

@Devil’s Advocate…..You are correct sir.

South ga boy in the Atl

May 21st, 2011
6:57 pm

Agree completely with you Jeff. To those of you who say we need to keep Josh because he’s so exciting and, at times, he shows such great potential. You’re missing the point. This team is screwed up due to Billy knight’s picking of forward after forward. Al is not a center. Al and Josh play the same position. Josh is not a small forward. You can’t bring one off the bench for 12 million a yr, DUH ! Al is starting a new 5 yr contract next yr while Josh only has 2 more yrs on his contract. Trade Josh for a true center. It’s so simple, maybe, even the Hawks, can’t screw it up. MAYBE.

JSS

May 21st, 2011
7:01 pm

Co-sign Bama52 and Najeh…. The rest of you are doing the Atlanta Don Quixote again…

@ Jeff Schultz…
Have you forgotten what depending on Abdul-Rahim like personalities will get you? They have the internal drive of Boris Diaw!

Najeh Davenpoop

May 21st, 2011
7:02 pm

“BTW you’ll be able to hear Bibby’s laughter from Miami should the Heat win it all.”

I’d be laughing too, if I got to shoot 20% and be a turnstile on defense and still got to keep my starting job in the playoffs.

mr mojo

May 21st, 2011
7:06 pm

Jeff enough with these trade Josh articles. It’s rediculous already you dont write anything else but trade Josh articles. Josh is not the problem on this team. It amazes me I love Horford but he was invisible two straight years in the playoffs. And no one gets on him Josh is always the scapegoat. They need to build around Josh, Al and JJ and now Teague with real players not halfwits at mininum.This team needs depth and good depth not to tradfe there best players. Thanks God you arent the GM. The only way I trade Josh is if we package him for a better player like a Chris Paul. Not for 2 or 3 role players.

RED ZONE 1

May 21st, 2011
7:27 pm

Here’s the trade that makes sense to all parties involved. Trade Josh Smith and swap 2nd rd picks to Washington for Javale Mcgee and there 1st (not the one from Atl). Washington has stated that they want to get younger (J Smooth age 26). He gives them instant post season experience and fills a need, Batche can man the 5 spot. We get a young atheletic, shot blocking, rebounding center to man the middle. Best of all we can address the SF position w/ the 1st rd draft pick. FULL PROOF PLAN!!!!

Wink

May 21st, 2011
7:51 pm

Trade Josh, Hinrich, Marvin, & use Jamal’s money to bring a combination of the following players to Atlanta.

Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, JR Smith, Gasol or Bynum (they want Howard.

Teague starts at PG & Barea can back him up (Offense & Pace)

JJ starts at SF & Wilkins can back him up (defense)

Horford starts at PF & Pachulia can back him up (Energy & Toughness)

Chandler or Gasol/Bynum or Nene (Defense at rim & post presence)

JR Smith starts as SG (back up from free agency as SG are plenty & JJ)

Josh must be traded to Western Conference…period!

cpshon21

May 21st, 2011
8:09 pm

Isn’t Nene’ and J.R. Smith free agents and Tyson Chandler???? They don’t have to be traded for???

william in pasadena

May 21st, 2011
8:14 pm

It’s a shame how you dipsticks in atlanta throw josh under the bus, when it should be jj and marvin and al. You did the same to pendleton, now look at the braves. You never want to get rid of the “star” (jj and chipper) even though neither has no fire. I think Bibby revealed the problem last year when woody yelled at him for passing the ball to josh at the 3-point line, “if you don’t want me to pass the ball to him when he’s open, then call another #@&** play. Drew seems to have the woody disease. Josh is the only draw the hawks have. He needs a good coach and teammates who don’t insist on yo-yoing up and down until the clock runs down (see jj and jc).

South ga boy in the Atl

May 21st, 2011
8:15 pm

I would be all for that Wink but I don’t see anyone giving up that much for Josh. I’ll be happy to get a quality 5 that offers defensive presence in the middle, rebounds and knows his roll. If we then slide JJ to SF (he’s 6′8″ and plenty big enough) then put KH at SG (which is what he truly is), at least for next season, and develop PS to possibly take over that role in 2012/13 we would have players in positions that are suited to their talent and role. We, thanks to the idiot Billy Knight, have had too many players that are adequate at several positions but don’t excel at anything. Al at C/PF, Josh at PF/SF, Marvin as starter and scorer/ no Marvin as post op/defender, no Marvin coming off the bench, no Marvin playing dead. KH as PG no wait he’s really a SG, no he’s a combo guard. Ditto for Jamal. Collins starts- next game he’s in street clothes. Billy K, Rick S, Woody, and LD- all schizophrenics. When J Noah comes to the venue for a game do you think he’s wondering whether he’s going to play center or PF or be in street clothes or in a coffin cuz he’s immitating Marvin playing dead. NO !

dap01

May 21st, 2011
8:25 pm

I love Al but he was getting softer every game this season. He is not gritty enough.

Man Man

May 21st, 2011
8:32 pm

Man trade Joe Johnson to cleveland for the number 4 pick.Dan Gilbert is really desperate after loosing Lebron

Devil's Advocate

May 21st, 2011
8:45 pm

Man Man,

I like the idea but that would be too perfect.

Bill Campbell

May 21st, 2011
9:13 pm

Nothing but a team of thugs! Pro basketball is the worst sport in town!

bynum rules

May 21st, 2011
9:19 pm

trade josh smith to the lakers for bynum—the lakers are ready to get rid of him and will take smith.