NBA PM: The Best Josh Smith Trade?
When the Atlanta Hawks succumbed to the Chicago Bulls in the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs many thought we had seem the last of Josh Smith in a Hawks uniform. Smith had become the favorite scapegoat for a team that was perceived to consistently underachieve, despite his being the team’s second-best scorer at 16.5 points per game and their best defender. Smith’s tendency to play out of control and take ill-advised shots drew the ire of new head coach Larry Drew on several occasions, leading many to feel that it was best if the Hawks traded Smith and moved in a different direction.
One of the other key issues driving the trade talk around Smith is the fact that starting center Al Horford really prefers to play power forward, which he can’t do with Smith in the mix and as the Hawks’ roster is currently constructed. If the Hawks could deal Smith for a starting center it would allow Horford to move over to the four, which he’s been lobbying to do for some time.
The NBA lockout drastically cut short the time teams had to make trades, but before the lockout went into effect the Hawks were busily working the phones looking for a deal. When that became public knowledge, Smith himself went on the defensive, saying he really felt it was time for his career to move in a new direction. He was finished with the Hawks, as well. Smith even reportedly named his preferred NBA destinations, listing the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets as his top teams.
When the lockout went into effect the Hawks had had little success in trying to move Smith. They had some brief discussion Los Angeles Clippers about attaining Chris Kaman, but the Clippers were looking for a small forward and didn’t believe Smith could fill that role despite his versatility. The Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets lack the expendable pieces to make a deal happen (they’re not giving up Brook Lopez or Dwight Howard to get Smith), the Celtics didn’t seem to be interested, and the Rockets weren’t offering the kind of package that would get the deal done for Atlanta. And so, Josh Smith is still an Atlanta Hawk.
Perhaps that’s for the best, and perhaps the lockout has provided some time for cooler heads to prevail. After all, in Smith we’re talking about one of the best power forwards in the Eastern Conference, and someone who has been considered a grievous snub in his repeated absence from the All-Star ranks. Giving him away for an older player like Kevin Garnett, as has been suggested, would be a mistake, as it would be to give him away for lesser pieces in an effort to save money. The Hawks may be reeling from their decision to ink Joe Johnson to a ridiculous contract, but cashing in a top-notch starter is not the answer. In fact, it would be a major step backwards for the Hawks.
No, the best trade for the Hawks might just be the one they haven’t made. Keeping Josh Smith could ultimately turn out to be the absolute best decision. Horford doesn’t want to play the five? Well, he has 12 million reasons to play wherever the Hawks ask him to play each year for the next five years, whether that’s at center or at point guard.
Of course, there are some feelings that need to be soothed if Smith is to stay. The organization needs to sit him down and draw him a map of the big picture, and head coach Larry Drew needs to take a sterner hand to rein in Smith’s game. The best solution is to have Smith get back on the same page as his coaches and his teammates and feel like he has a stake in the team’s success. If the Hawks can do that they won’t need to worry about their front court, and can focus on the bigger issue . . .keeping Jamal Crawford in town.
The Return Of Allen Iverson?
As HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler reported earlier, former NBA star Allen Iverson is looking for a trainer in an attempt to get back into the NBA. While the prospect of “The Answer” getting back on the hardwoods in exciting, there are some realities that have to faced before we starting pondering where he might land and how he might impact a team.
First and foremost, he’s going to have a hard time finding a serious NBA trainer who will give him another shot after the many bridges he has burned. He eventually wore out his welcome in Philadelphia, which is why they traded him to the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets put up with him for a while, but ultimately dealt him to Detroit, and Iverson quickly made a nuisance of himself there, as well. After finishing his time in Detroit away from the team, he signed on with the Grizzlies, talking a good game until the ink was dry on his contract and then quickly pushing his way out of Memphis, too.
What are the odds that Iverson is really ready to turn over a new leaf and get to work now?
The consensus among the NBA trainers that HOOPSWORLD has talked to is that the odds aren’t good, and no one wants to be viewed as the one who failed with Allen Iverson. At the end of the day, most are fearful that Iverson’s off-the-court issues will keep him from achieving any set forth goals, as they played a strong part in his exits from his former NBA teams as well as in Turkey, where he refused to . . .you guess it . . .practice.
The idea of Allen Iverson being back in the NBA is an exciting one, but don’t hold your breath. He brings too much baggage for most NBA teams to even consider taking him on.
Welts Talks Suns Departure
Since 2002 Rick Welts has been the President and CEO of the Phoenix Suns, but that tenure is set to come to an end later this week as Welts steps down on September 15th. Welts recently talked with XTRA 910 in Phoenix about his decision.
“Well, I’ve only developed only one skill in my 36 years in this business, and that’s having a great sense of when it’s time to leave a job. Now is the right time. I drove over to Coronado and talked to Robert Sarver about two months ago and told him this is what I was thinking and he and his ownership partners have been absolutely terrific in trying to make that happen for me. And they have. I have a big smile on my face today and a lot of excitement, but this has also been a great nine years, I’ve worked with amazing people.”
Welts isn’t sure what’s next just yet, but one thing is for sure – he is not retiring.
“No!!! Retiring? I’ve got way too much energy and get bored way too easily to consider retirement. I made this little announcement in May — you may have not heard about it — but as a result of that, I’m going to be spending a lot of time on the rubber chicken circuit, and I’ve got a few colleges to speak to, and a few conferences and had some really interesting book offers. I don’t know, any number of those things could occupy my time. I think inevitably you’re going to find me back running a team somewhere I hope. But that’s all in the future for me right now. I’m doing a very un-Rick Welts thing in taking this leap without really knowing what that next thing is.”
Welts’ decision to step down came on the heels of his announcement that he is a homosexual, something that has just begun to change his public life. In fact, he recently consulted tennis star Billie Jean King on life after coming out.
“Well, I was back at the U.S. Open talking to Billie Jean King this week, so that’s one way my life has changed,” said Welts. “I had to make a little speech at the U.S. Open on some award they were giving me, and Billie Jean came up to me afterwards and said ‘you know you didn’t use the word gay during the entire conversation. Are you comfortable, are you okay with that? Because it’s okay if you aren’t, I just wanted to point that out to you.’ So I needed to make sure now that anytime I’m in a public setting now I’m using the word so Billie will be proud of me. But I would say that the overwhelming response that I got — the thousands of emails, the hundreds of letters (people actually write letters, I don’t know if you know that, but people actually writer letters). A lot of them came from all the people I’ve ever worked with in my life, tremendously appreciated. However, the ones I would say are the most meaningful to me are the ones from the parents of kids who are struggling with this issue of their sexual orientation, from the kids themselves. And then from people in my industry who I don’t know, who are in the same situation I was in most of my career. Just people who wanted to connect with somebody that would understand. And the whole idea of doing this was the hope that by telling my story in such a public way, it might convince some kid out there who has a passion of sports — or frankly anything else — that you really can do whatever you want to do, and you’re not prevented from doing that just because of who you are. And if it served that purpose, than it was really worthwhile.”
Some have said that working with Suns managing partner Robert Sarver was hard for Welts, and is a primary reason why he’s stepping away from the team. Welts was quick to defend Sarver, saying he’s been nothing but supportive.
“Absolutely not. In fact, if there’s a good guy in this story, he’s a good guy in this story. And I would absolutely confirm on a scale of 1 to 10 he is not an easy guy everyday to work for. I will tell you that the guy that I worked for before him, David Stern for 17 years, is off-the-charts in difficulty to work for. So Robert is a piece of cake, okay? He’s got a wonderful heart. He’s got this thing about wanting to win that I think every fan should appreciate. And through this process, he’s been nothing but tremendous.”
It’s easy to think that Welts is getting out of Phoenix while the getting’s good; after all, the Suns have taken significant backwards strides over the last year. Welts, though, says he feels the future is incredibly bright in Phoenix.
“Yep, because of what’s been invested in the infrastructure on the basketball side. Last season was our first step, and I can tell you that the resources, the personnel, the systems that have been invested in over the course of the last 12 months are extraordinary. I’m a big believer in the people we’ve brought in, and we’ve made big investments in everything that is possible to invest in in building the infrastructure to be a successful basketball organization. And I really think that’s going to bare fruit. Whether that’s one year, two years, three years, I’m not sure. But it’s going to happen, and I think when it does, this is going to be a team that’s going to be right in the thick of things and competing for a championship again.”
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