NBA PM: Hawks Embrace Josh Smith
Outside of one year of high school in which he attended Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, Josh Smith has played his home games in the state of Georgia ever since he picked up a basketball. He starred at McEachern High School and with the famed Atlanta Celtics AAU team before being drafted by the Hawks in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft.
Smith once signed an offer sheet to play with the Memphis Grizzlies in August of 2008, but the state of Georgia wouldn’t let him go that easily. The Hawks matched the Grizzlies’ offer and Smith happily continued his career in Atlanta.
But as NBA stars began being coddled by front offices and voicing their opinions on franchise decisions, Smith felt abandoned by his hometown team. He’s the youngest player in NBA history to reach 900 and 1,000 blocks, but at 26 years old, he felt his skills were being taken for granted. And when criticism came during last year’s playoffs—a run that included a first-round upset of the Orlando Magic—Smith had finally had enough.
He began wondering aloud if his career would do better elsewhere; he asked why his coach, Larry Drew, didn’t stick up for him. Smith was one of the best defensive players on the planet and yet, the only people that seemed to realize that were on other teams… until now.
Smith’s teammates returned from the lockout and rather than suffer through their own Dwight Howard or Chris Paul situation, the Hawks players are telling the media the truth about Josh Smith.
“He already knows we need him,” center Zaza Pachulia told HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene. “We need him to play his game every night; every single night. When he does that we’re successful and it’s very hard to beat us.
“Josh brings so many things to the table it’s priceless – not only offensively but defensively,” Pachulia continued. “If he plays the right way, uses his athleticism and plays smart he’s unstoppable. We’ve told him before millions of times and we still tell him in a good way, a positive way of course. We’re friends. As long as he’s doing that (playing smart) I’m sure everybody is going to be happy and no one will want to trade him. It’s really in his hands. He has the ability, trust me his potential is unbelievable.”
The early reviews have been good. Smith reportedly dropped 25 pounds and is now down to 225 in an effort to defend the league’s better small forwards (this means you, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony). The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz pointed out that Smith has moved his jump shot in from 3-point range (where he is a career 28.2% shooter) to about 16-feet away. That will assuredly appease Drew, who criticized his shot selection last season.
It’s hard to tell whether Smith still holds any resentment toward the franchise, but if he does, his teammates aren’t seeing it.
“Man he came here like he was happy on the first day of camp and he didn’t complain,” point guard Jeff Teague told HOOPSWORLD. “(Smith) came in and played well, he’s been playing hard and he’s been a leader on the floor. I think guys look too deep into it. He might not feel appreciated or something like that, but we love him as his teammates. I think he’s the anchor to our defense, he’s a great player and I’ve always loved playing with him. I’m happy he’s here.”
It’s hard to handicap this Hawks team, especially if shooting guard Jamal Crawford leaves via free agency. But there is absolutely no doubt that Atlanta can scare some of the top teams in the East if they have a happy, willing Josh Smith. The players seem to know that. Now it’s time for the entire organization to embrace its home-state star.
Clippers Play the Waiting Game
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears are reporting that the Clippers are waiting for the NBA-owned Hornets to lower their demand for Chris Paul. Sources told Yahoo! that Los Angeles’ position is that demand for Paul has shrunk and the league needs to alter its asking price accordingly. Essentially, the Clippers feel that packaging Minnesota’s first-round pick with Eric Gordon is too much to ask, and if one or the other could be taken out of the equation, they’d be much more interested in this trade.
“They’re scrambling now,” one official told Yahoo! of the NBA’s position. “But it’s still hard to tell if they really want to trade him, or they’re just determined to keep the asking price in a place where they can hold onto him for the next owner. …These guys in New York had no idea how hard this process would be.”
Ultimately, the NBA is going to have to ask itself what the best way to sell the Hornets is: a blank slate with draft picks and other young assets or with Chris Paul and not much else.
McRoberts isn’t a great defender, but…
Former Pacers forward Josh McRoberts is rumored to have signed a two-year deal with the Lakers for the mini mid-level exception, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote on his Twitter account.
For many basketball fans, McRoberts is a bit of an anomaly: He’s Duke player who is known more for dunking than fundamentals. But a lot of people don’t know what makes McRoberts so valuable, particularly to a playoff team.
Today’s NBA offenses have been forged in many ways by the Mike D’Antoni Phoenix Suns. Other teams saw how effective a great pick-and-roll point guard can be when paired with an athletic big man with good hands. So after Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire put down the blueprint, suddenly every NBA was looking for a similar dynamic. The pairings of Rajon Rondo-Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer and Chris Paul-Tyson Chandler have all had their own spin on basketball’s oldest play, but the strategy has been the same: Make defenders pick their poison.
But to stop the pick and roll, teams didn’t just need two good, athletic defenders. They need guys who had a sense of when to switch, when to fight through a pick and when to deny the pass. Like Kris Humphries, McRoberts has the athleticism to recover or disrupt that timing.
Obviously McRoberts isn’t a great overall defender—in fact, many would say he’s a below-average defender—but his 6-10 frame and quick leaping ability has helped him overcome a lot of his defensive deficiencies.
McRoberts adds more offensively than defensively (he was tied for fourth among power forwards last season in true shooting percentage), but as long as teams continue to use the pick and roll, he’ll have a place in the NBA. Now if teams want to back him down in the post, that’s another story altogether.
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