Josh Smith wants out of Hawks — and it’s hard to blame him

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season.  (AP photo)

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season. (AP photo)

By the end of last season, the criticism had started to become too much for Josh Smith.

When something went wrong, he got blamed. When the Hawks lost, he got blamed. Certainly, any time he did something silly and made one of those pouty, lower-lip-touches-the-tip-of-the-nose boo-boo faces, the city’s basketball fans held their nose in disgust and screamed, “Feh!”

At some point, it all figured to be too much for the hometown kid – and now it is.

Smith wants out of the Hawks. Out of Atlanta. I don’t blame him. I wrote a column following last season’s playoff exit that it might be best if the two parties went in opposite directions, and that was meant less as criticism of Smith than it was a read of the unhealthy situation. It was clear how he and those in his camp felt about the situation.

Our Michael Cunningham reports that, while external criticism of Smith has significantly diminished this season, the forward wants a fresh start with a new team, and he has let the Hawks know of his desire to be dealt before the NBA’s March 15 trade deadline.

The irony here is that Smith has had the best season of his career. He has averaged 17 points, almost 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two blocks. When center Al Horford went down early this season, Smith stepped up and took on a bigger role. When guard Joe Johnson went down, Smith went on to carry this team.

Is Smith great every night? No. But what we’ve witnessed this season is a smarter, far more mature and polished player than at any time in his eight-year career. When training camp opened following the league’s lockout, Smith showed up 25 pounds lighter, wearing a smile and having a seemingly new perspective on things.

He denied that criticism ever prompted him to ask for a trade in the offseason, but cracked that at times he was tempted to “get lost. Punch the GPS a few times.”

“I’ve been here a long time,” Smith continued. “I’ve never lashed out at the organization. All I ask for sometimes is, when I raise my hand, maybe somebody can help me up, so I’m not always the person who’s trying to [defend me from criticism]. It would be nice if somebody else said, ‘This guy’s a pretty good player.’”

He certainly has shown that this season. Now he wants out. Figures.

How does this look if you’re the Hawks?

The kid from College Park doesn’t want to play for the hometown team. Dwight Howard, an Atlanta native, doesn’t want to play here, either.

It’s one thing when hockey players from Russia (Ilya Kovalchuk) and Slovakia (Marian Hossa) want out. But two guys who grew up playing pickup games on the city’s black tops?

Neither Smith nor Howard have a problem with Atlanta itself. It’s more about perceptions of the franchise and the ownership. As players move on in their career, winning titles becomes more important. Smith wants to play for a franchise more committed to winning a championship — or at least one that leaves the impression it knows what it takes to get there.

The Hawks have been an undersized team with Horford as their center, but their inability to make significant roster fixes can be traced directly to ownership’s decision to give Johnson a $123.7 million contract.

Smith has been the Hawks’ best player this season. He got jobbed in All-Star game selection twice — first when Eastern Conference coaches picked reserves, then when commissioner David Stern inexplicably chose the suspended Rajon Rondo over Smith to replace the injured Johnson. Smith apparently holds the Hawks at least partially responsible, believing the organization didn’t do enough to promote his candidacy.

My guess is that perceptions of the younger, immature, underachieving Smith still linger with some and had more to do with his exclusion. But Smith has been a treasure to watch for most of this season. Now he wants out. It was easy to see coming.

By Jeff Schultz

185 comments Add your comment

ro

March 8th, 2012
4:54 pm

Trainwreck

March 8th, 2012
4:55 pm

That…. Really… Suks

ro

March 8th, 2012
4:56 pm

Ho Hum!!! Wake me when Braves season starts!

bryan

March 8th, 2012
4:57 pm

First! DO you really think this ownership and GM have the stones to pull off a big trade? Marvin to Cleveland seems more likely.

therddler

March 8th, 2012
4:57 pm

Alright then…

mike

March 8th, 2012
5:01 pm

Josh is definitely under-appreciated in ATL… anywhere else he would be welcomed and praised..also, if he tones down the all the jumpers he will help his cause

Allan in Austin

March 8th, 2012
5:02 pm

What can the Hawks get in return? Perhaps Rondo and a 1st rd pick from Boston? Thoughts?

ClemsonBrad

March 8th, 2012
5:03 pm

Jeff, Do you see the Hawks trading him? I don’t. How can you trade your best player when your currently in the playoff hunt? I know they don’t realistically have a chance of going deep in the playoffs…but I still can’t believe the Hawks would trade him.

Altanta, GA. USA

March 8th, 2012
5:06 pm

What??? Smith is the FRANCHISE PLAYER, getting him out of this city will be a disaster for the team. He is a homegrown player, he brings energy and enthusiastics to the game.

J dubb

March 8th, 2012
5:06 pm

The Hawks will never get above mediocrity (early playoff loss) until the ASG gets lost. They are a joke and all of NBA knows it. Hell, even Stern has a problem with them.
I like J Smoove and I feel as sorry for him as I can for a millionare (not much).

steve brown

March 8th, 2012
5:07 pm

Package Smith, JJ and Marvin and start over. Although it would be interesting to see if Marvin would flourish if he was given more freedom, more responsibility and more shots as Smith has blossomed with his added responsibility. Unfortunately, it appears JJ has peaked and he is all he will ever be.

some sense

March 8th, 2012
5:08 pm

Just let him go and start over…again.

SPORTSGIRL

March 8th, 2012
5:08 pm

Jeff its amazing how u left out the fact that your counterparts and yourself have killed this team and the players no matter what they did. All while praising the falcons and braves for doing what exactly?? Because the beloved Matt Ryan has yet to get his team to a playoff victory and the braves whateva. So yes ASG is to blame but so is AJC and the Local Media oh yeah and plz tell Mark Bradley I’m especially talking to him.

DrH

March 8th, 2012
5:10 pm

ESPN’s BS Report (with Bill Simmons) released a podcast this week with Simmons interviewing Mark Cuban. Listening to Cuban talk for one single hour made me think about how I’ve NEVER heard an Atlanta sports team owner even come close to being as knowledgeable and involved with their team as Cuban obviously is. Whether you love him or hate him as an outside observer, that’s the kind of owner every player would want to play for…in other words, the exact opposite of the buffoons that own & run the Hawks, and ruined the Thrashers.

It’s no shock whatsoever that every talented player who has options elsewhere will leave the Hawks. Obviously JJ staying is an exception, but I guess the Hawks can only afford one guy at those rates.

Grandmaster JeJe

March 8th, 2012
5:11 pm

FIRE ASG

FIRE SUND

Hawks Fan

March 8th, 2012
5:11 pm

Don’t blame him either. ATL fans have been ripping him for years while boring Al gets all the credit even though his numbers look a lot like Z pach’s numbers. If Al is such an all star then let’s trade him for a real center or small forward. Hang in there Josh. You are the best player on this team.

Jesus christ

March 8th, 2012
5:12 pm

Jrue Holiday is coming.

Grandmaster JeJe

March 8th, 2012
5:12 pm

The Hawks don’t market their players?!?!?!?!

I saw that Hawks billboard in Cobb.

FIRE LD

no sense

March 8th, 2012
5:12 pm

I loooove how the fans (bloggers) blame the AJC writers for how bad a team or a player performs. SPORTSGIRL, you are ridiculous. We are all waiting to read how dumb your next comment is. Please, entertain us with your wisdom!

john

March 8th, 2012
5:14 pm

Any Hawks fan would say, trade Management/ownership, keep Josh Smith.. To bad ‘Atlanta Spirit’ is run more like a popsicle stand than a multi-million dollar business.

no sense=SPORTSGIRL

March 8th, 2012
5:14 pm

dumb, dee-dumb, dumb….

teedub

March 8th, 2012
5:23 pm

I second Hawks Fan and john

Why would you write this?

March 8th, 2012
5:27 pm

Why would you write this if you are a hawks fan? Are you trying to screw the hawks? Because if you truly loved this team you wouldn’t be stating reasons he should leave. You would be giving reasons for him to stay.

Larry

March 8th, 2012
5:30 pm

Josh Smith is a loser…let him walk and take that stupid 25 footer with him!

GSU is in Atlanta

March 8th, 2012
5:31 pm

Too bad we can’t get Howard here and keep Smith…I just woke up from a dream

Why would you write this?

March 8th, 2012
5:34 pm

So this seems to me like you are trying to get players to not come here. Isn’t your job supposed to be where you say good things about the Hawks, not bad? I have yet to see a positive argument for them. You criticize the Hawks and yet you are writing horrible things trying to make this team seem bad.

On another front. Why do you like the Braves and Falcons, but you hate the Hawks? The falcons are cheap, and you call them big spenders. The Hawks are big spenders and you call them cheap, owners who don’t want to win. You say the falcons have great playoff success, they haven’t made it out of the second round since “Matty Ice” came here. You say the Hawks have had terrible seasons the past years, They have gone farther in the playoffs each year.

And finally I really thing you should take a look at this from a Hawks fans perspective not some writer who criticizes everything a team does

Seattle Hawks fan

March 8th, 2012
5:35 pm

Dammit! I wish our owners would sell! Trade teague, Marvin, Horford for D. Williams…. J-smoove plus D. Williams, Johnson would convince Howard to come here!

Trojan

March 8th, 2012
5:36 pm

The ASG is horrible at managing a NBA team. Sund is the least expensive GM available. Larry is the least expensive coach. The whole rebuilding process was horribly done. Josh is the only “player” on the team. The Hawks are a terrible team to even pull for.

Josh can carry a team. Look at the effort of the past few games. We are undermanned but by running the offense around Josh, we can complete with anyone. But instead we will end up with soft Al Hortford at forward and we will again resort to ISO Joe pounding the ball and getting his 17 points per game.

The Hawks are locked in to a horrible contract.

Watch the attendance fall. Can you imagine how BLAND the Hawks will be without Josh.

Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Seattle Hawks fan

March 8th, 2012
5:37 pm

I can’t believe with all the superstar rappers and celebrities can’t buy the hawks! Where is C-low Green!

Joey

March 8th, 2012
5:40 pm

Josh has been great the past 2 seasons. Don’t blame him for wanting to go play for a contender. Sadly, it won’t happen here.

Sad, because it took a legendary team (Bird and Co) to keep the Hawks from The Finals back when our legend (Dominique) was here. Now, big-market teams have stacked their decks to keep a really good (when healthy) Hawks from advancing.

It will take a billionaire (not Ted Turner, who would rather give the idiotic UN $1 Billion) to come in and be willing to pay the luxury tax to get the stars. And those billionaires will go to the big cities before they ever come to the ATL.

It’s just a shame that any competent GM would have gotten more than one or two good players out of all of those high picks when the Hawks were lousy – geez – Deron Williams or Chris Paul vs Marvin??

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
5:40 pm

Bryan — If management thinks they will lose Josh when he becomes a free agent after next season, they’ll trade him before then just to ensure they get something for him. Same as the Dwight Howard situation.

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
5:41 pm

ClemsonBrad — Do I think they’ll trade him? Yes. When is the question. Agree that doing it now will take some guts. The might wait until offseason. But I think it largely depends on what the offers are. If the Hawks can get a player to build around, then they have to look at it.

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
5:43 pm

Sportsgirl — I think you need to look back and see specifically what I’ve written and then get back to me. I’ve criticized team for lack of size. I’ve praised play this year of Josh, praised Drew, praised Teague in playoffs, said Horford injury was crusher … what specifically are you referring to? Or are you just looking to throw something against the wall and see if it sticks?

Hayman

March 8th, 2012
5:44 pm

The hawks are so stupid they would trade josh and a 1st rounder (if we have any left) for some more junk

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
5:44 pm

J Dubb — Not race-baiting please. Deleted your comment.

Joey

March 8th, 2012
5:45 pm

Larry (5:30) is a loser and a dumbass. Get that idiot off these blogs!

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
5:46 pm

Seattle Hawks fan — Actually you bring up an interesting point. With all the folks in the music/entertainment profession — many of whom are NBA fans — who live in Atlanta now, you would think some could be enticed to be investors, at least.

Joey

March 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

SPORTSGIRL, reading comprehension is your friend . . .

HedgesHaven

March 8th, 2012
5:51 pm

Jeff,

Does trading Smitty with another year left on the contract perhaps gives the team a little more leverage?

Hugo

March 8th, 2012
5:51 pm

I personally would love it if the hawks trade him. I am tired of watching a 6ft 9 in shoot 3’s like it’s a layup. Mine u he makes about 3 out of 20. And take em at the wrong time. Please, somebody take him. I’m tired of seeing him whine so much too. Can we throw in a dog too with the trade?

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 8th, 2012
5:55 pm

Is it possible to tear down Phillips and forget any of this happened?

Larry

March 8th, 2012
5:58 pm

Seattle Hawks fan

March 8th, 2012
5:37 pm

“I can’t believe with all the superstar rappers and celebrities can’t buy the hawks! Where is C-low Green!”

Because after all the money spent on jewelry, tattoos, cars, wheels, baby mommas, and dope there isn’t enough left to pay the functionally illiterate Joe Jonhson and Josh Smith contracts!

Vito

March 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

i know they do in football n baseball but can Joe redo his hiis contract he got to no they will never win wit it no one can come help there is no money n we cant trade him no one wont to pay that money

Mike

March 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

I think a new ownership needs to come in and clean house because i know that josh smith isn’t perfect but at least he tries and ASG don’t even care about get to the finals, they are worry about their other stuff. So ownership needs to go.

So do anybody think that Josh will be trade before March 15?

Larry

March 8th, 2012
6:02 pm

Vito must be Joe Johnson’s offspring…OMG!

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
6:05 pm

HedgesHaven — Yes, it’s better than trading him during next season. They would’ve had more leverage before this season. Could have more bidders after season than now because more teams can restructure their roster, but it’s hard to say for sure.

Jeff Schultz

March 8th, 2012
6:06 pm

“Chef” Tim — My time machine has been on the fritz, sorry.

PLASTICMAN

March 8th, 2012
6:07 pm

Sad news to here Josh and Dwight don’t want to play in Atlanta partly because of management. Could of had something special here with a home grown talented team invested in the community. With Al down for the year now is the time to blow it up and may be our best chance to package JJ and get out of this ridiculous contract. I’d love see the Hawks possibly make a trade for Greg Monroe or with Minnesota and pick up Kanter and Favors.

Skydawg

March 8th, 2012
6:09 pm

We still have a basketball team? I thought they left with the Thrashers. Go Dawgs, Go Braves, Go Falcons…Hawks….just go.

JSS

March 8th, 2012
6:12 pm

Jeff Schultz
March 8th, 2012
5:46 pm
“Seattle Hawks fan — Actually you bring up an interesting point. With all the folks in the music/entertainment profession — many of whom are NBA fans — who live in Atlanta now, you would think some could be enticed to be investors, at least.”

People miss this over and over again… There is on the book value, and then there is real value. None and I mean none of the Atlanta movie magnets, song impressarios, performers have “real value” needed to pull off a deal, that includes the Foxworthy’s, Tritt, and Jackson’s too for those who like to play the race card or Anti-Atlanta demographic card. It is the one real why no minority owners have stepped up to purchase either the Hawks, Phillips Arena, or the the departed Thrashers… Oh by the way, there were minority “rich” hockey fans. But the fracture in Thrashers fans scared them away…