NBA Sunday: Josh Smith Addresses Trade Rumors
Outside of Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul you can probably make the argument, without much objection, that Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith will be the most coveted free agent this summer.
But with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, Smith has also been one of the most discussed players around front offices across the league. The interest amongst league executives is being driven by the uncertainty of Smith’s situation with the Hawks long term.
The uncertainty isn’t limited to just league executives and the media covering the situation as Smith himself didn’t sound as confident when asked recently about his future with the franchise beyond this season’s trade deadline.
“I don’t know,” Smith said according to Atlanta-based reporter Nubyjas Wilborn when asked if he would still be with the team after the February 21 trade deadline. “Every year people ask me the same questions. I mean, I was [supposedly] getting traded four years ago but I’m still here. So all I can do is keep playing and not worrying about outside rumors, you know, speculations.”
Hawks president of basketball operations Danny Ferry and Smith came to an agreement early in the season that there wouldn’t be any contract talks until after the conclusion of the 2012-13 campaign. This was a no-brainer as signing an early contract extension under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement would require Smith to leave millions on the table, which wouldn’t be smart business.
Both parties have also maintained the messaging that they remain on the same page in regards to the future direction of the team. Make no mistake Ferry truly values Smith’s talent. The former player turned league executive is very high on the nine year veteran. On the other hand, Smith has proudly represented the Hawks jersey in recent years like no other player on the roster.
But outside of the obvious mutual admiration, there are big decisions to be made here. Since arriving to the team last June, Ferry has strategically cleared plenty of long term financial obligations, finally giving the franchise the flexibility to be much more active players on the free agency and trade market fronts.
The Hawks will have over $30 million in cap space this summer, with only $26 million in salary on the books for next season. Smith can demand a five-year deal in the $94 million range from the Hawks once he becomes a free agent. Smith has recently stated he believes he is worth the full maximum.
Ferry’s success in creating financial flexibility for the team moving forward, Smith’s desire to be fully compensated for his talents and both sides remaining silent on the future has driven the daily trade talk to reach these levels, to which Smith readily admits has been a frustrating part of the process.
“It’s a little frustrating because I guess people need to have something to talk about,” Smith said. “Whatever sparks the interest of the media and the public eye. It doesn’t bother me because I really don’t read the media, newspapers or nothing like that. I just focus on what I can do to be beneficial on the court.”
The potential of losing Smith in free agency for nothing in return has led to the Hawks entertaining teams around the league in an effort to gauge Smith’s market value. But let’s be clear. The NBA is a business and businesses routinely take inventory of their current assets. The Hawks aren’t actively shopping Smith at the moment but are following the proper due diligence in the event its time for both parties to part ways – whether it be over the next two weeks or this summer.
Smith is arguably the most talented player in the league without an All-Star appearance hanging on his mantle. The nine year veteran needs just 179 points to become the 24th player in league history to reach 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots. Elite company. There are five active players who have reached this threshold; Elton Brand, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan. All of those guys were All-Stars and at some point all of those guys were given MAX dollars during their free agency years. Will Smith add his name to these lists, as an Atlanta Hawk?
Sixers’ Evan Turner On The Trading Block?
It would be an understatement to state the Philadelphia 76ers’ season up until this point hasn’t gone according to plan. The Sixers were just one game away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Instead of relying on organic growth, the team decided to swing for the fences and acquired veteran center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers, trading away All-Star forward Andre Iguodala.
Bynum has yet to play a game for the Sixers this season due to knee trouble and team is just 22-27 as we near the All-Star break, three games behind the eighth place Milwaukee Bucks for the East’s final playoff spot. The team also received news that veteran guard Jason Richardson is done for the year after opting for surgery on his troublesome knee.
According to multiple sources, the slow start has put the Sixers’ front office in a proactive mode to potentially retool their roster on the fly. One name being mentioned is forward Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 draft.
Turner is having a career year averaging 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 43 percent shooting from the floor but isn’t overly concerned about the trade talk.
“I’m not a GM, so I really don’t know [my trade value],” Turner said to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think it’s all about what our team needs, and that’s it. Whatever. I think that the best is yet to come with me in general, wherever it occurs.”
“It’s not my choice to be traded or not, you know?” Turner added. “So if it happens, it happens. What I want doesn’t matter. If it did, life would be way different.”
The Sixers have long been rumored to be in the market for a productive big man with Bynum out of the lineup.
Nuggets Have No Plans To Acquire A Superstar Player?
The Denver Nuggets defied the odds and maintained their position in the Western Conference standings despite trading away All-Star forward Carmelo back in 2011. The team has reached the playoffs in nine consecutive seasons and appears poised to achieve another appearance this season.
Perhaps the surprising part of the recent success is that the team has continued winning at a high level without an elite level guy leading the charge. This season the Nuggets own the fourth best record in the Western Conference yet the club won’t have any representation in this month’s All-Star game.
Nuggets head coach George Karl has been adamant that a team can win at the highest levels of the NBA without a superstar on the roster by playing team first basketball and he wants to be at the helm when it happens.
“There are only about 10 or 11 superstars in the league,” Karl told Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal. “There are a lot of really good players and we have a lot of really good, young players. And it’s a team game. I don’t care what you say. You can talk superstar, you can talk special talent, great big guys, great guards, great point guards, at the end of the game, the champion we will crown in June is always the team that plays as a team and plays with the team mentality first and not talent first.”
“We’re going to try to shock the world and become the first team to win a championship without a superstar — or without an All-Star,” Karl added.
The Nuggets are currently on a nine game winning streak and own a 22-3 record at home this season.