A significant Hawks question: What is Josh Smith doing?

It's tempting to write a caption. But do we really need one? (AP photo)

It's tempting to write a caption for this photo. But do we really need one? (AP photo)

Chicago – It was one moment in a lost Game 2, but it was what we Atlantans have come to regard as a  Josh Smith Moment. The Hawks had taken a rebound and pushed the ball, which came to Smith in the left corner. With 21 seconds remaining on the shot clock, he hoisted a 3-pointer.

Yes, he was open. The Hawks’ swift transition had left the Bulls scattered. But no, it wasn’t a good shot. Even had it fallen — and it didn’t — it was a lousy shot. Watching, the only response was: “What are you doing?”

A stipulation: I like Josh Smith a lot. He’s among my favorite contemporary Atlanta athletes, and there was a time when I’d have said he was my absolute fave. But I have no idea what he’s doing anymore.

To say he’s killing the Hawks would be inaccurate. They won Round 1 and are level in Round 2. But they’ve done it while their most talented player has, over the past three games, missed 29 of 39 shots. A few of those misses have come on good shots. Most have not.

After his 13-points-on-14-shots performance in Game 2, I asked Smith to describe his night. “Defensively it was pretty solid,” he said. “I struggled offensively.”

I’m not sure “struggle” is the right word. That implies a concentration of effort. Smith appeared in Game 2 as he often does  — distracted and disgusted. He did his customary railing at the refs. He seemed to run hard only on occasion. He did so little for so long you wondered why he was on the floor.

But then he showed you. With the Bulls leading by 13 midway through the third quarter, Carlos Boozer rolled underneath for a layup. Smith blocked it and ran the floor — there was real running involved this time — and dunked at the other end. It was his first basket. He would score three more: Another dunk, a driving layup and a stickback.

And now you were asking, not for the first time or even the hundredth: How good would Josh Smith be if he never took a shot beyond the lane? If he could content himself with being, say, Paul Silas? (Who was a great player on championship teams, let’s recall.) Put another way, has there ever been a less effective jump shooter who persists in taking jump shots?

Granted, he’ll make a  few. He made a big one near the end of Game 1. But a Smith make often hurts the Hawks more than a Smith miss because it impels him to keep shooting.

Josh Smith has it within him to be an All-Star, and he was very close to being one in 2010. He had cut back on the jump shots and, in the words of former coach Mike Woodson, had come to “understand time and score.” But to see Smith now is to view a clear regression, if not so much in scoring numbers than in impact.

Smith took seven 3-point shots in his last season under Woodson. In his first season under Larry Drew, he took — are you ready for this? — 154. (He was stationed at small forward more, which might account for some of this. Some, but not all.)

True, he made 33.1 percent of those 154 treys. Even so, are those the shots you want Smith taking? Is having such a dynamic player standing 23 feet from the goal a wise deployment. Numbers suggest not: His scoring average moved from 15.7 to 16.5 this season, but his rebounds and his assists and his blocks declined. (Turnovers, however, were up.)

As it is, Josh Smith at 25 is on his way to being one of the league’s least respected good players, and I hate that. He’s a nice guy, and he’s capable of so much more. If he would play to his strengths — and he has many — he would get his numbers without damaging his team.

With Smith at his best, the Hawks can take the Bulls. “We’ve got to be confident,” he said after Game 2, “and that team over there knows we know we can beat them.”

Then he laughed. “The media might not know. But that’s OK.”

Being a member of the media, I’m privy to press room conversations. I hear what famous writers say about the Hawks. And the first thing many of them say is, I’m sorry to report, “What is Josh Smith doing?” For that I have no answer.

By Mark Bradley

361 comments Add your comment

daniels

May 5th, 2011
10:02 am

MJC

May 5th, 2011
10:03 am

Neither Josh nor Horford can hit anything so far this postseason. Let’s hope that they will step up the offense soon.

Hankie Aron

May 5th, 2011
10:04 am

Vomax

May 5th, 2011
10:04 am

It’s one of the most unnerving things to watch Josh Smith continue to do what he has no business doing. Were he to play similarly to how Joakim Noah plays — hover around the box and get garbage layups and tip-ins — he’d routinely lead the East in offensive boards and be a perennial All-Star. As it is, he’s an offensive liability.

Hankie Aron

May 5th, 2011
10:05 am

wallowing with the bronze instead which means i’m shorter on the platform next to daniels and MJC

JNJ

May 5th, 2011
10:05 am

Excellent article! This is exactly what ails the Hawks! The 1st game, the Hawks won in spite of Josh Smith. Joe & Jamal were shooting well enough.
However if Josh could recognize that he’d be better playing down low and with energy, the Hawks would be a dominant force.

Josh Smith

May 5th, 2011
10:05 am

Y’all just jealous

Hankie Aron

May 5th, 2011
10:06 am

Vomax- I don’t think the type of Noah player you speak of is what Josh is not. He enjoys shooting too much

Mark Bradley

May 5th, 2011
10:06 am

Daniels takes the gold kudos.

bruce mac

May 5th, 2011
10:08 am

Chicks love the long ball. Josh don’t care about the team, it is all about Josh. Bulls in 6.

Jerry West

May 5th, 2011
10:09 am

“How good would Josh Smith be if he never took a shot beyond the lane?”

Unfortunately – for us and him – we’ll never know.

me

May 5th, 2011
10:10 am

Josh Smith is a beyotch. Let me phrase it more clear, he’s a bitch.

No Woody for Me

May 5th, 2011
10:13 am

J-Smoove is J-Brick.

LD needs to start challenging his manhood and ask him if he is afraid to drive the lane and get fouled. He sure looks like he is playing afraid. If not for his D, there would be no reason to have him on the floor.

NCBravesFan

May 5th, 2011
10:14 am

Well said, Mr. Bradley! A gifted athlete who seems to have a good heart. It’s a little hard to understand why, after seven years, he still struggles so much with his in-game decisions.

BDSIII

May 5th, 2011
10:16 am

Hankie Aron, Daniels, get a life. Great article MB. I really wish coach Drew would sit him when he hoists up terrible shots. I expected it from him early in his career. Enough is enough. Time to grow up, play your role, or move on.

BDSIII

May 5th, 2011
10:18 am

Maybe he can replace Gonzo at TE when he retires?

dap01

May 5th, 2011
10:18 am

Why will no one ask LD why he simply ignores the stupid shots that Josh takes? I am sick of seeing him camp out 25 ft from the basket. What a waste. Josh is not going to get another big contract because he is evolving in to a player no one will want.

A strong coach is his only hope.

After Hinrich comes back, does Teague even get 10 mpg?

durrtydog

May 5th, 2011
10:19 am

Yeah Josh was his old self. Crying and acting like a spoiled child. I’m use to it by now though. But to be honest, Joe lost this one. He allowed Deng to do his thing. Even after so many media types and fans have complained and complained about his penchant for dribbling the ball until the shot clock damn near expires, he still does it. Teague was on fire last night. He is taking advantage of Rose’s ankle and the Chicago defense. Why not allow him to keep doing his thing? NOOOO! As soon as we got it down to 5 or 7 last night, Joe took the ball and dribbled and dribbled and dribbled and dribbled. I think he’s still dribbling now. Its sinmple. When we MOVE the ball, we win! Do they even watch tape?
Its two things I will never, ever forgive the Hawks for. Drafting Marvin Williams and resigning Joe Johnson!

Vick Supporter

May 5th, 2011
10:20 am

I’ve pulled for Josh Smith his whole career, but last night was HORRIBLE. He needs to get his ass down low or we can’t win this series. They have no one that can guard him if he drives to the basket. He want’s to be pretty and shot threes and he doesn’t see himself as a “garbage man” type player. Funny thing is, if he would accept that he’s just that, he would be an all-star. Also, anyone that know anything about basketball knows that easy layups will give you the confidence to make those jumpshots, yet Josh refuses to do that and its 100% selfish.

Josh,

We are in the f’in playoffs with the chance to beat the #1 seed. Open your f’in eyes man. LD, put that weak ass Marvin Williams on the bench and give those minutes to Wilkins, Zaza, anybody but him. The Hawks are killing me man, but they’re my team and I root for them always. Open you f’in eyes Josh.

Dawglasville

May 5th, 2011
10:21 am

It is the question. We paid for potential. He could be Rodman. He won’t be. He blocks 5 shots and turns the ball over 10 times with air balls and balls dribbled off his leg. I don’t think that even Chuck Daily (?) could get him to play his role and he was the best I ever saw at getting his guys to understand where they fit into a system.

Andy

May 5th, 2011
10:25 am

I agree that Smith was as frustrating as ever in that game, but there was poor play and shot selection all around–a lack of patience and discipline on offense. Jamal and Joe were dribbling themselves into double teams and poor shots. Marvin threw up a few ill-advised jumpers. They clearly forgot what won them game 1 on Sunday–good ball movement and smart shot selection. It’s like they were throwing up shots and just praying they would go in–very frustrating to watch. The one bright spot: Teague. He and Horford seem to be the only ones who are playing intelligent b-ball.

ATLtodolavida

May 5th, 2011
10:27 am

Don’t give up on Josh, but PLAY ZAZAAAAAAAAA!!!

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2011
10:28 am

It hurts the Hawks in the obvious way of wasting offensive possessions when Josh decides to camp out at the 3-point line while his teammates are trying to run the motion offense. The defenders are not going to bother covering him out there because, of course, they want him to shoot so he camps out out there, and the first time he gets his hands on the ball he reasons, Hey, I’m wide open, time to jack up a 3.

The other probably even bigger but less obvious way this kills the Hawks is that with Josh jacking up shots from the parking lot, he is not in position do something he does well which is rebound the ball. Consequently, the Hawks get whipped by almost every team in the vital area of rebounds.

Please, Josh, we need you in the paint where you are a force. Stop selling out your teammates with the constant barrage of bricks you seem determined to launch every game.

J-Man

May 5th, 2011
10:28 am

I wish he would remember that he is Josh Smith and not Ray Allen and to quit shotting the 3s and ATTACK THE BASKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! While he is not hitting the free throws either fouls add up and Noah and Boozer pn the Bench opens everything up inside and allows Crawford and Johnson to hit the 3s

Realist

May 5th, 2011
10:28 am

It amazes me that people are still waiting for Josh Smith magically to turn into a basketball player. It’s already been half a decade. It’s not going to happen.

feudfinder

May 5th, 2011
10:29 am

Josh Smith can not leap anymore. That is he’s taking jumpers from 25ft. We saw that playing against Howard. He’s getting faaaaaaaaat.

Michael

May 5th, 2011
10:29 am

The thing that baffles me most about Josh is that he surely must know that he’s a better player when he plays close to the rim. But yet he stubbornly insists on hanging around the perimeter. It’s like he’s trying to commit career suicide. I just don’t get it.

andrew

May 5th, 2011
10:29 am

Josh Smith just needs to play within his own game, and that is driving to the basket to get a dunk or get fouled! If he shoots a outside jump shot he needs to be benched! The guy has one of the worst looking jump shots of anyone in the league! Also his basketball IQ is really poor! It’s like the Hawks are scared to drive the ball to the hoop against anyone, they have to wait until it is a open lane to the hoop to get anything close. I think they do not have a high basketball IQ and it shows on the court when their jump shots are not going in. They also have poor spacing on the court during their offensive sets, they play good when they are lose and moving the ball well and their shots are going in, otherwise they are a horrible team!

Reid Adair

May 5th, 2011
10:29 am

You mean besides wasting offensive possessions for the Atlanta Hawks by taking (and missing) so many jump shots?

feudfinder

May 5th, 2011
10:30 am

osh Smith can not leap anymore. That is why he’s taking jumpers from 25ft. We saw that playing against Howard. He’s getting faaaaaaaaat.

Kaye

May 5th, 2011
10:30 am

tom

May 5th, 2011
10:31 am

josh needs to keep it simple. Defense Rebound, Defense Rebound, Defense Rebound.

Winston

May 5th, 2011
10:31 am

How much of this do we blame on the coach and how much do we blame on the player? Either way, Drew needs to keep it in check. Who are they gonna fire first, the coach or the player?

Dawglasville

May 5th, 2011
10:32 am

I’ve always been a fan of the guy under the radar. When everyone was trumpeting Maddox and Glavin in the early 90’s, I was a Smoltz man. When everyone was loving Chipper, I liked Andruw. I’ve always been a Josh guy but I can’t take it anymore. He has got to go.

Who Cares

May 5th, 2011
10:33 am

Josh Smith and Larry Drew=Dumb&Dumber!! Smith is a total joke on the floor. This guy never puts forth any effort, and then he stands 25 ft from the basket while he watches poor Horford bust his ass on the glass every play. THis guy is a disgrace to the city of Atlanta, and if the Hawks had any decent ownership, they would ship this clown and his coach out of Atlanta as fast as they could. Larry Drew is a big babysitter for these hawks, and he will never get in their faces and demand effort from them. The whole Hawks franchise resembles Dumb&Dumber, from the attorneys that run the club, to the coach, to their #1 spokesman Wilkens. This guy is an embarrassment to the team ever time he opens his mouth. Says alot about an education from UGA doesn’t it.

heartofdarkness

May 5th, 2011
10:34 am

Josh has to be one of the most poorly coached athletes in professional sports. At what age might it have become apparent to his coaches he wasn’t going to be a point guard? In all probability, it hasn’t occurred to them yet. Or maybe they weren’t coaching him to be a basketball player. A couple of times last night, I saw him slip to the basket unguarded, take the pass and make the high percentage bunny. He should get 30 points a night that way against a team guarding the perimeter like Chicago did last night. Or force the defense to put three players along the baseline. It’s as if he is perennially playing in a middle school game listening for the chicks cooing in the stands for the long ball. Maybe he makes that post up on the three point line so he can watch JJ dribble the shot clock away.

Gatorfan

May 5th, 2011
10:35 am

This piece is dead on. Josh Smith has a very low basketball IQ. During a game, watch Horford and Smith all night, and compare their decision-making. One guy got good coaching in college for three years, and has a team first mentality. One guy went to two or three high schools to focus on his personal basketball skills and got no college experience (basketball or life.) They’re both about the same age, and yet worlds apart in their basketball maturity.

PMC

May 5th, 2011
10:36 am

I’m not too worried about it since they took game 1. Jump shooting teams arent going to have it every night, they still played hard last night. Shots just didn’t fall.

We need Josh’s defense.

Paul Hewitt

May 5th, 2011
10:39 am

I think he is gonna transfer to George Mason for next season

FSII

May 5th, 2011
10:39 am

MB
I ask the same question everytime I watch Josh Smith play. For some reason, no one can get him to stay near the lane. You are correct in that he has regressed. He looks like he’s one or two years out of high school, trying to find his spot. I tell anyone who listens, his basketball IQ is still low, “understand time and score” – (Mike Woodson). If he would concentrate his game in or near the paint, he would be the best at his position in the game. He’ll figure it out and his b-ball IQ will increase when he is 33 years old and 60 pounds heavier. Well, maybe not, he’ll probably be older and heavier and still hoisting threes.

TheAntiMe

May 5th, 2011
10:40 am

I don’t even understand why his teammates even pass Josh the ball when he’s out on the perimeter. They have to know by now that he’s not even going to think about swinging it to the other side of the court for the open look like the offense is designed to work. He’s going to jack it up every freaking time.

I constantly find myself cursing at the player who passes the ball to Josh when he is hanging out at the arc. If they would only stop passing him the damn ball maybeJosh could finally get a freaking clue.

DC

May 5th, 2011
10:43 am

I’M STILL FRIGGIN RAGING!…

I know the players read the local newspapers..so I hope Smith reads this as motivation and understanding that we want him to do well..but…STOP FRIGGIN SHOOTING THE JUMPERS!

Joey

May 5th, 2011
10:44 am

“…ever time he opens his mouth.”
**********************************
Where did you get your education, “Who Cares?”

Talk about embarrassment . . .

Oh and by the way, you are crazy as hell to write that Josh Smith “never puts forth any effort.”

steve brown

May 5th, 2011
10:44 am

I have been wondering why you have given Smith a pass in the past. The fact that you like him as a person has blinded you to his glaring weakness as a ball player-he simply has no head for the game and never has. Unfortunately the rest of the basketball world is now seeing this as well and any trade value he once had is diminishing as we speak.

Jake

May 5th, 2011
10:45 am

I watched a few minutes last night and was rewarded by seeing Smith hoist an absurd three and watched it clang off the rim into the hands of a Bull. It reminded me why I don’t watch the Hawks and the pro game in general: tremendous athletes, but a lack of fundamentals, patience, maturity and feel for what Woodson called “time and score.” Thanks, but no thanks.

Kapoonka

May 5th, 2011
10:46 am

I’m n ot sure if it has ever been stated, but let me enlighten everyone. J-Smoove’s inability to realize and play to his strengths is a simple lack of maturity. This is what you get from a player with no collegiate experience. he is still a kid…at 25. Watch him pout, watch him scowl, watch him mean mug, watch him ignore the coach, watch him walk down the floor after a bad call while the other team is putting the ball in the basket. He is the most immature pro I have ever seen, and it’s wreaking havoc on the team. Josh seems like a nice enough guy, but his inability to wear big boy pants is going to continue to haunt him his entire career and impact whatever team that will put up with his crap.He could be as dynamic as Blake griffin if he applied himself and has a good 15 footer he could nail consistently. The bad thing is JJ (oh yeah, not a real leader) or someone else should be able to reel him in and give him a noogie because he is completely uncoachable.

[...] have had trouble living up to this postseason. …Hawks Need Josh Smith To Step UpHoopsWorldA significant Hawks question: What is Josh Smith doing?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Bulls show defensive strength to tie seriesPekin Daily [...]

JW

May 5th, 2011
10:48 am

Dude should not be allowed to shoot jump shots period…if he does, pull his a** out of the game.

LakeDawg

May 5th, 2011
10:48 am

” If he would play to his strengths — and he has many — he would get his numbers without damaging his team.”

The above quote says it all. In JS’s world its all about getting his numbers. As supporters/fans of JS, we’re left hoping he sees that he can still get his numbers and not hurt the team. We know he will never put the team first. Smoove’s #1 goal is to make the all-star team, period. He thinks that if he can start hitting 3 pointers along with blocking shots, all the ESPN guys will start talking him up.

Angus

May 5th, 2011
10:50 am

A few thoughts:

Two years of NCAA ball (and the required, albeit small, schooling) would have done him wonders.

Much of the blame falls on Woody and LD.

He can’t pass, shoot, or dribble very well – do not pass him the ball unless he’s wide-open within 5 feet of the basket.

He makes it hard to be a Hawks fan. He seems like a nice guy, hasn’t been caught doing anything stupid, hometown guy, etc., but the pouting and antics is embarrassing to the team and city.