NBA PM: Smith Excited About New-Look Hawks
Last season, Josh Smith’s unhappiness with the Atlanta Hawks was well-documented. The star small forward demanded a trade at midseason and routinely expressed frustration with the organization. After watching the Hawks lose free agent Jamal Crawford and fill out the roster with cheap veterans last offseason, Smith didn’t believe the team was committed to building a contender.
Now, with Danny Ferry taking over as general manager of the Hawks, Smith believes the team is heading in the right direction. Atlanta traded away Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, Jordan Williams, DeShawn Stevenson and a future first-round pick. Shortly after, the Hawks dealt Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris, and then signed free agent guard Lou Williams. That’s a lot of change in one offseason, but Smith likes the moves.
“Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve always been about winning,” Smith said. “I want to one day be able to play for a ring. I want to give myself the opportunity to do that. With a good GM like Danny Ferry and everybody else, I think this organization is heading in a positive direction.”
“Those are guys who can create for themselves and others,” Smith said of Harris and Williams. “We got a guy in Louis Williams who is a pure scorer. He can shoot the ball and really play. Devin Harris is fast, quick and plays similar to Jeff Teague. He can definitely be a facilitator because we have a lot of guys who can really stroke the ball.”
Smith is excited about the new-look roster, and the cap flexibility that they’ll have next summer. By unloading Johnson and Williams, Ferry created enough cap space to sign two players to maximum deals. Dwight Howard will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason and he’s already being mentioned as a possibility for Atlanta. Smith, who has known Howard since preschool, would love to have him.
“We do have a lot of money coming off the books, especially after this year,” Smith said. “I don’t know what the plans are. I guess every team that’s unloading money, the media thinks they’re targeting Dwight. And who wouldn’t want a guy like that on your team? He’s the best big man in the league. I’d love to have him. Who wouldn’t? He’s the most dominant big in the game right now.”
Howard and Paul aren’t the only star players who will be unrestricted free agents next summer. Smith is entering the final year of his contract and he’ll be able to weigh his options next offseason. He admitted that players have already started recruiting him, but insists that he’s focused on building a winner in Atlanta.
“My main concern is playing for the team that I have right now on the Atlanta Hawks and trying to have the best season of my career,” Smith said. “I want to keep getting better as my career progresses and then worry about [free agency] when it comes to that point.”
Smith approves of Atlanta’s direction and, with so much flexibility going forward, the future of the Hawks is certainly bright.
McGee, Nuggets Continue Negotiations: The Denver Nuggets continue to negotiate with restricted free agent JaVale McGee, and both sides are optimistic that they’ll work out a deal. McGee is in Las Vegas, taking in the Summer League with teammates Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler as well as head coach George Karl and general manager Masai Ujiri.
The Nuggets have reportedly offered McGee a five-year, $50 million deal. The two sides haven’t reached an agreement yet, but Ujiri was confident that a new deal will be signed soon.
“We’re hoping [to re-sign McGee],” Ujiri told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s a negotiation. These things take time. I think the positive thing about this is that JaVale hasn’t gone out to seek anything else and we haven’t gone out to seek anything else. He’s the guy we want and I think we’re the team he wants to play for. We’ll get there at some point and both parties will be happy. It’s been positive. It just takes time sometimes to come to that comfortable number or whatever it is. JaVale is hearing, spending time with us. We’ll get something done eventually.”
While McGee wasn’t as revealing when asked about the ongoing negotiations, he did say that he hopes to be with the Nuggets when the 2012-13 season gets underway.
“I’m just trying to let my agent handle it, and I’m hopeful that we get it done,” McGee told HOOPSWORLD.
Last season, McGee averaged 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks with the Nuggets. In the playoffs, McGee’s averaged 8.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.
Mullens Playing Well in Las Vegas: The Charlotte Bobcats had the lowest winning percentage of any team in league history last season. However, they have emerged as one of the best teams in the Las Vegas Summer League. They’re 2-0 and have received huge contributions from veterans like Kemba Walker and Byron Mullens as well as draft picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffrey Taylor.
Mullens is averaging 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, and he’s playing well defensively. The Bobcats are playing for new head coach Mike Dunlap and many of the players on their Summer League roster will be part of their rotation next season, which makes this an excellent learning experience for Mullens and his teammates. HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler caught up with Mullens in Las Vegas: