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

Joe

May 21st, 2011
1:17 pm

Benjamin

May 21st, 2011
1:25 pm

Second. And this article pretty much echoes my feelings exactly on the topic.

J.J.M.

May 21st, 2011
1:29 pm

lol horford sure didnt show up in the playoffs. hawks better pray that they get a shot blocker when Josh is traded because horford cant block shots at all(point guards will drive on the hawks all day) also I do think josh needs some fresh air. His whole life growing up has been nothing but atlanta,

chem

May 21st, 2011
1:33 pm

Are there actual negotiations taking place or is this just speculative? Al Horford is a top 5 NBA center, so undoubtedly Hawks would be downgrading at center if they traded Josh for a center and Horford wouldn’t be that much of an upgrade over Josh at PF. We saw Horford at PF during the playoffs, and that was the least effective I’ve ever seen him. The net effect would be bad. Do you really want this?

J.J.M.

May 21st, 2011
1:33 pm

exactly@chem horford has no post up game

STRETCH

May 21st, 2011
1:36 pm

Lets get this party started! Smith to LA for Gasol or Bynum

Bill

May 21st, 2011
1:37 pm

Right on Jeff !!!!!!!!!

Logical?

May 21st, 2011
1:37 pm

Don’t get it. Josh is a spectacular player who for all his faults is still one of the top 25 players in the league. Why not give Pachulia a shot at center if you want a real center. Just like Teague, he never gets a real chance to play consistently. If you don’t want Josh shooting from the outside, design the offense better. Hawks would never get fair value for him.

Not Don Waddell

May 21st, 2011
1:40 pm

Man, I really, really wish that Belkin had won the lawsuit.

The Spirit have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that they are too poor to own a professional franchise (much less two) and too stupid to do anything right.

Cousin Vicker

May 21st, 2011
1:40 pm

Hey chem, in what planet is Al Horford a top 5 nba center? Certainly not in this year’s playoffs. He has to be moved to power forward. I agree with this column, but I wish i didn’t. I also believe Smith to be a good guy who deserves a fresh start. I wish he could have blossomed into the player we envisioned he could be while in Atlanta. Having said that, he will never become that player until he grows up a little bit. Column for another day: Why do the Hawks have so many players that say “I hate being criticized” while D-rose is unhappy with his performance following 20/15/10 games ?

Mid Town Joe

May 21st, 2011
1:41 pm

Maybe they will go to Winnipeg, too.

Cousin Vicker

May 21st, 2011
1:43 pm

Horford himself says he is out of position at center. That tells me all I need to know

chem

May 21st, 2011
1:43 pm

Horford is a 2-time all-star and was selected 3rd team All-NBA this year — the only Hawk that received votes.

STRETCH

May 21st, 2011
1:43 pm

Maybe they will move Seattle, hmmm…the Seattle Hawks n SeaHawks!

Chop It Up All-Star

May 21st, 2011
1:47 pm

I’m torn. Change for the sake of change is never the solution; and trading away one of the few recognizable faces from the Hawks is not really a good choice either. But Jeff you’re correct in that Josh Smith is a lightning rod much like Mike Vick was in this town. Long on potential and excitement, but that little something was missing. And as a fan it’s sometimes frustrating to watch, because you want to believe in them so much.

After the playoffs for the Hawks ended, the emotional me would have agreed with you. But the rational me says we need a Josh Smith, maybe more than any other player on the team. He is talented, exciting and still raw. Face it, for few those fans that actually buy Hawks tickets to see the Hawks, it’s because of a Josh Smith, not a Joe Johnson.

What this team needs is a new voice; a new focus. A leader that can get the best out of this crazy athletically talented group. Larry Drew appears to be a very nice guy, but he can’t take this team to the next level. Get a basketball mind “Hubie Brown” type in here (again) and let him pull out the potential in our home grown Josh and we need not worry about him blossoming somewhere else.

STRETCH

May 21st, 2011
1:48 pm

All Star,

What this team needs in NEW management, capable management.

Enasty357

May 21st, 2011
1:50 pm

@Chem, Horford plays center pretty good but he’s not tall enough to go at the most dominant centers in the NBA. @J.J.M, that’s not Horfords game, how can he show up and do what his skills allow if he’s getting outplayed by much bigger centers. Point exactly, if you know basketball, if the Hawks get another decent center Al will then blossom and get to play guys more of his size and demonate. I’m not an expert but just an opinion to the whats reality for this Hawks team.

Kobie

May 21st, 2011
1:51 pm

Pachulia is an energy guy that is best suited for coming off of the bench. With his propensity to draw fould in his limited time, he would never be able to constantly start and give you 35 minutes a night. Josh Smith for Gasol or Bynum in LA, really? You think the Lakers would really give either of them up for Josh Smith. I think Josh is a great guy who has a great game if it is in the right system. Could you imagine Josh in a wide open system like D’Antoni runs in New York? The problem is that who could you get for Josh? It would not be a fair trade and you would not get equal value back. For all the criticism of Al Horford at center, how many good centers are actually out there. Cross off Howard, Bynum, Perkins and who do you have left. Look at the teams in the playoffs right now, how many legitimate good centers are left, Kendrick Perkins. Even though I feel trading Josh maybe best, if I cannot get legitimate value in return (which we will not) forget trading him and open up the offense to more aggresive puching the ball up the floor with Teague and score in transistion and stop the constant walk up and wait for teh defense to get set and settle for a long jumper.

Cousin Vicker

May 21st, 2011
1:53 pm

If Horford was a top-five NBA center… why would a playoff team start Jason Collins against Dwight Howard?

J

May 21st, 2011
1:53 pm

Hello,
Trading Smoove would be a gigantic mistake that I am afraid is going to happen. Even when his offensive game is off, his Defense masks many of the other Players weaknesses.

I honestly think we will lose 20 more games without him and due to the Media Perception of him, we would not even remotely get parity on a Trade for him. Mind you he has been here for 7 Years without ever getting into trouble and actually wanting to be here.

We pay JJ like he is Kobe in his prime and he is strictly here for the Paycheck. If Horford is that determined to play PF, I would rather Trade him as we will get a much better return as he is perceived to be a “winner”.

Josh is one of a handful of Players in the NBA that can honestly takeover a Game in all aspects. This is something that cannot be said of any other Player on our Roster. I do not blame Josh for wanting to perhaps leave as he is so special, yet receives so much blame when he outpreforms the rest of the Roster, Yes he makes mistakes, but he usually makes up for them on the other end of the Court.
J

Enasty357

May 21st, 2011
1:54 pm

@ Cousin Vicker, I totally agree with your points! Spoken from someone you really knows basketball.

Ty

May 21st, 2011
1:58 pm

Heck, I think that all Josh needs is one more tatoo! That should solve the problem. Sell the Hawks to Boise Idaho!

Ty

May 21st, 2011
1:59 pm

Better yet, trade him for a sick horse then shoot the horse!

STRETCH

May 21st, 2011
2:02 pm

Touche Cousin Vicker! And how about an organization that gives Robin Batmans money!

Dawg A

May 21st, 2011
2:05 pm

Right on target Jeff….. We need to explode this lineup and get some guys in here who want to go out every night and play hard. Let’s start by getting rid of Josh Smith and Marvin Williams. We will have to give Marvin away but what can we expect in return for Josh? Sadly these clowns of a ownership group has crippled us with Joe Johnson.

AtlantaDude

May 21st, 2011
2:11 pm

If you can’t trade somebody (JJ) because nobody will take their contract, that’s pretty good proof you overpaid. I wonder what the Hawks could have signed him for if they hadn’t exhibited premature contractualization.

kbp

May 21st, 2011
2:12 pm

Jeff, Joe did not cripple the payroll. ASG and Sund did. Joe should have taken the money. I am a JJ fan but I would not have offered him a max deal. He’s just not that kind of player. Should have done a sign and trade with Chicago since they reportedly coveted him. If we trade Josh and Hinrich for a legitimate center, then the center needs to be able to score, defend, and rebound because losing Josh certainly makes us worse in those categories. What center’s are out there that teams are willing to part with? Greg Oden? Can’t give up Josh for him. Who’s out there?

kbp

May 21st, 2011
2:13 pm

Enter your comments here

KSUAlum

May 21st, 2011
2:13 pm

Josh Smith is uncoachable. That’s part of the problem. If he wasn’t hard-headed, he’d be a perennial all-star and household name around the NBA. Instead, he’s a “raw” talent (seriously, after 7 years in the NBA no one should still be a “raw” talent) who has great physical ability but awful judgment on the court. And it never seems to get any better.

And if he doesn’t like it when fans call him out, well sorry Josh, you get payed a lot of money to play a game for a living. Try playing your style of basketball in New York city, or Boston, or LA. You’ll be catching the first bus back to Atlanta after a week of those fans and their scrutiny. You get off fairly easy with us here, because we’ve had seven years of your shenanigans. I keep wanting to give you the benefit of the doubt, but honestly, I care less about you than I do getting a legitimate center for this team. It’s not personal; just business. You can take your “angryface” and go screw up someone elses offensive rhythm.

If it’s any consolation, I wish I could send Joe Johnson with you.

kbp

May 21st, 2011
2:20 pm

Oops! I will enter my comment here. Marvin is not as bad as most fans think. Compare his stats from 2007-2009 and you will see a reduction in shot attempts compared to 2009-2011 seasons. Woody misused Marvin last year and Drew this year. No way Al and Josh should take more perimeter shots than Marvin. For a talented player who has no plays run for him he does pretty good. He should get at least 12 shots per game. The Hawks would be a better team if he did.

James

May 21st, 2011
2:21 pm

Josh Smith & Kirk Hinrich to the Lakers for Pau Gasol.

LEA

May 21st, 2011
2:23 pm

KSUAlum u don’t seem like u r very bright AT ALL..

hmmmm........

May 21st, 2011
2:24 pm

Trade JJ to the mavs for tyson chandler

vtye

May 21st, 2011
2:24 pm

Josh is a wonderful forward who is trapped within the wrong offense. Trade him to my Lakers and he will soon have a ring on his finger

hirsutedawg

May 21st, 2011
2:26 pm

I don’t believe Josh Smith is un-coachable, I believe he’s never been coached up in the first place. That’s what happens when ownership goes on the cheap to hire a coach. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. For God’s sake spend some money and hire a coach like Jeff Van Gundy and I guarantee you’ll see what Josh is capable of every night.

kbp

May 21st, 2011
2:26 pm

James, I would make that trade right now and throw in Armstrong and Wilkins.

KSUAlum

May 21st, 2011
2:28 pm

“Paid”

And LEA, I don’t really care what you think.

Publix

May 21st, 2011
2:28 pm

J Smith has to go, even though I love him in the Hawks uniform, and the fact that he is OUR kid. Sadly, JJ is not welcome anywhere due to his contract.

We should trade Smith and Marvin to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan and Gomes.
Now that we’d have a true athletic C, we need a SF.
At that point trade Hinrich and Crawford to Portland for Fernandez and Roy.
They are getting two good players for one decent one and another who is not needed any longer in Roy.

We start:

Teague
JJ
Roy
Horford
Jordan

Fernandez
Gomes
Wilkins
Powell
Pachulia

I would love that team.

Dawg A

May 21st, 2011
2:30 pm

KSU alum…… you are right on target and I am so glad you are not afraid to speak the truth!!

Petey

May 21st, 2011
2:32 pm

We should be trade partners with Denver.

Denver get: Josh Smith & Marvin Williams

Hawks get: Nene & J.R. Smith

Nene would be our center, J.R. Smith would replace Jamal Crawford.

crook

May 21st, 2011
2:36 pm

Josh was the only one to show up for the chicago series, him and Teague. But you want to throw him under the bus (SMH). Wake up its the coach not him, the owners are just experimenting they are not serious about puttting together a championship team. And like someone stated earlier hell I go to the game to see J Smoove put on a show, yeah he pout but he come to play!

Ryder

May 21st, 2011
2:36 pm

What a shame it would be if we have to trade such a talent. If another team and coach will change his need to shoot from 18 feet out, why can’t that be done here in Atlanta?

James

May 21st, 2011
2:41 pm

If Josh is traded he will become a top ten NBA player and the Hawks will regret the move for years.Trade him for who? A draft choice? There is nothing in the draft that comes close to Josh.And before we trade him for another player just look south to Orlando to see what happens when trades are made just for the sake of trading.During the Chicago series Tom Thibodeau said that Marvin Williams is the most underrated player in the NBA and I totally disagree and think he should be playing in Greece or some other distant country.Why cant the Hawks package him and Hinrich for a center which seems to be the major need? The bottom line is that the Hawks should not have invested so much into Joe Johnson who they cant trade because of his salary which is not Josh Smith’s fault

KSUAlum

May 21st, 2011
2:44 pm

No, Crook, he “pouts” for 10 minutes, then plays for 5 minutes, then “pouts” again for another 5-10 minutes. If he’d stop all the pouting and play f-ing basketball, he’d be a monster.

And to those talking about the coaching: look, I get that frustration too. I have my share of gripes about Woody and now LD. But honestly, I’ve been listening to LD; in interviews, and particularly during the playoffs when they had him miked up or were listening in on the time-out coaching sessions. LD was saying the right things. The players were not following through.

You guys say “Oh, but we need a marquee coach who will motivate these guys, etc.” Look, they’re professionals. They get paid more money than most of us will make in a lifetime in one season, to play a child’s game to entertain people. We should be able to put a barnyard mule at head coach and these guys should be producing more than they do.

Un-coachable.

Bishop

May 21st, 2011
2:46 pm

Why is Horford untradable? He’s shown that he can be shutdown by a defensive PF or Center. Why not package him and Marvin and get a Howard or Bynum in here. Trading Josh for a boring post player will kill any fan support.

John

May 21st, 2011
2:50 pm

Trade Josh Smith to the Utah Jazz for the #3 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and select Enes Kanter.

AWI

May 21st, 2011
2:51 pm

trade marvin williams

KSUAlum

May 21st, 2011
2:53 pm

Enes Kanter? Look, if we can’t get a center that is at least 7′1″ or taller, then we might as well do nothing at all. No more 6′11″ and less.

Jeff Schultz

May 21st, 2011
2:55 pm

JJM — No doubt the Hawks would give up something defensively without Josh.

Juan from Chi

May 21st, 2011
2:56 pm

It would be a good year to trade Josh Smith. There will be several good players available. Players like Gasol., Andre Iguodala, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Micheal Beasley. I say trade for Andre Iguodala and try and sign Greg Oden as a free agent.