Archives For Josh Smith

As Kenyon Martin sat just behind the free-throw line, the world had no idea what Josh Smith would do next. Smith darts down from center court, leaps in the air, catches the toss from a seated Martin, and swung the ball back around windmill style. Boom. The Pepsi Center exploded, along with the TNT crew calling the All-Star festivities. Kenny Smith immediately proclaimed, “The dunk contest is where you make your name… His name is gonna be starting to become famous around here if he keeps doing dunks like that.”

In the next round, the 19-year old from College Park put on a vintage Dominique Wilkins jersey and dazzled the crowd – again – with a windmill tribute to the Hawks legend.

As he took home the title of 2005 Slam Dunk Champion, Josh Smith also took home another title: fan favorite. While the origin of the nickname “J-Smoove” is less than concrete, the high-flying young forward would soon earn the moniker.

At the time, it’s likely that he had little effect on me, a clueless 8 year-old who had little interest in professional basketball. Now, coming up on 18, I feel I can finally grasp just how big of an impact that one player had on some of the young stages of my life.

 

*****

 

The puzzling nature of Josh Smith’s career in the ATL has left me speechless at times and with a mouthful of arguments at others. He left me awestruck one day and confused the next.

When asked about Josh Smith last fall, Bob Rathbun, the Hawks TV play-by-play man, was quick to give praise by saying that “he rarely missed a game unless he was injured. [He] started for basically nine years, and filled the stat sheet like no other forward in the history of the franchise, Bob Pettit and Dominique Wilkins included.”

J-Smoove was such a unique figure in Atlanta; likely a once-in-a-generation type athlete, basketball player, and member of the community. But he leaves us with doubts; doubts that seem to linger on wherever he continues to play.

Lang Whitaker once wrote on The Classical, “If Allen Iverson was The Answer, perhaps Josh Smith is The Question, at least among NBA fans. What kind of player is he? What kind of player should he be? What kind of player will he become?”

Everyone in life has their own “what-ifs?” that drive them crazy. Some are personal, some are professional. Others involve things out of their control. For me, the juxtaposition of Josh Smith’s issues with my past personal doubts and challenges was perfect harmony.

Josh Smith left Atlanta more than a year ago. In that time since, I’ve been able to picture every scenario of his career if different what-ifs had been fulfilled. In that same time since, I’ve found myself thinking about my own life in a deeper way, realizing that solace could be found through the visualization of my own life lessons.

What if we found a way to trade Josh Smith’s basketball IQ with that of Kevin Garnett or Chris Paul?
What if I traded my self-confidence from when I was younger with that of Nick Young’s? (Note: This might be an unhealthy level of self-confidence, but you get the idea)
What if Josh Smith took constructive criticism to heart and actually learned from it?
What if I had noticed my own personal mistakes when they happened and worked to avoid those situations in the future?

The late Bil Keane, author of the long-running newspaper comic The Family Circus, once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

Josh Smith’s departure last summer left me in a place to think about life; think about the what-ifs that had been glazed over in my memories. Thanks to my looking at the past as a place for reflection and self-improvement, as well as looking to the future as a time where anything is possible, the present is indeed a gift of God. I’ve had one of the best years of my life, thanks – in a strange way – to the departure of my childhood hero that left me in shambles.

 

*****

 

Josh Smith’s legacy in Atlanta is one that represents a nearly decade-long era of Hawks basketball; an era that is looked upon as a disappointment compared to what it could’ve been.

Josh Smith’s first season in Detroit – and the Pistons’ season in general – has been described with the words “disaster”, “train-wreck”, and “failure”. The strange spacing of Detroit’s super-big frontcourt allowed Smoove, now 28, to play to his self-proclaimed strength’s and hover around the three-point line. His shot chart tells the whole story. (courtesy of Nylon Calculus)

He hoisted up 265 shots from behind the arc – the highest number of his career – and converted just 26% of those opportunities. Combine that with a career-low in field-goal percentage (42%), player-efficiency rating (14.1), and offensive win-shares (-1.4) and Smith had one of his worst seasons as a pro.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, a cultural revolution was occurring. Once Danny Ferry traded away Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams in July of 2012, it was clear that the franchise was evolving – sooner, rather than later. After another first-round exit in the spring of 2013, head coach Larry Drew and Josh Smith both had expiring contracts. Ferry let Smoove walk and brought on well-respected Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to right the ship. The metamorphosis into a promising franchise was beginning; “Spurs East” was officially underway.

Ferry and Coach Bud have made it known through the past two off-seasons what the Hawks are looking for: unselfish, hard-working players that are looking to come in and do the dirty work to help the team win. A clear team identity has been set.

Under Larry Drew, the same concept went ignored. After a loss in April of 2013, LD uttered a myriad of words that seemed like an attempt to shed the blame away from himself.

“Here we are 77 games into the season, and we don’t know who we are. When we go all the way back to training camp, with all of the changes that we made, one of the things that I made a point of was for our guys to understand who we had to be. We had to be a team that would be gritty, we’d have to be a team that would bring a blue-collar mentality every night we step out on the floor, particularly on the defensive end. And somewhere along the line, we have forgotten who we have to be.”

This would never happen today. The old Hawks are no more. These Hawks are sneaky, aggressive, and here to stay. Danny Ferry didn’t want to follow the path of the Hawks under Woodson and Drew. He set up the team for success in a different way; a way that had been foolishly skipped over in the construction of the 2000’s Hawks.

The Hawks have shifted from a group of players that wore the same jersey to a team in every sense of the word. That wouldn’t have happened without losing Smith to Detroit. Alternatively, without losing Smith to Detroit the Hawks would still bear some resemblance to the “old Hawks”.

The old Hawks represent a state of disarray. From the ownership questions to draft busts. From the isolation-heavy offense to the continuous early-playoff exits. Smith’s imprint on the team and the fan-base was, without question, remarkable. He was the hometown guy. He was the man who brought special plays to the Highlight Factory. The slow decline of his popularity among avid fans had much to do with his jump-shot and his inability to learn from his weaknesses.

He was the final piece of the puzzle to be removed. The old Hawks are gone.

The new Hawks are consistency defined. Sure, they aren’t the “perfect” basketball team from San Antonio some might say they’re trying to emulate, but they’re placing one foot in front of the other down a mystical path that leads to a region long unheard of in Atlanta: success.

The old Hawks/new Hawks is a striking metaphor for what’s taken place within myself during these past 12 months.

Much like the old Hawks, the old me is long gone. The transition of qualities is similar and I can’t help but think that the person the old me once loved with the greatest admiration is responsible.

Josh Smith came into my life during the fall of 2010. For the next three years, I became a transient Atlanta Hawks fan/die-hard/writer living half-way across the country. He gave me something to love when I wasn’t completely comfortable with everything else. He treated me to highlight plays when I needed a quick jolt of adrenaline and joy.

In 2013, he left me stranded in a place where I felt most vulnerable: my thoughts.

While his Atlanta exit might have been immensely saddening, it was one of the best things to ever happen to me. The departure of J-Smoove gave me a rare opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up.

If Smith stays in Atlanta for four more years, I don’t see myself facing the same life obstacles that were thrown in front of me last summer. His silent dismissal was, in a way, a wake-up call for me. I chose to go against my idol and change things for the better, something that he had failed to do. There’s no denying the adjustments I’ve made, the weaknesses I’ve learned from, and the faith I’ve built up in myself to grow as an individual, searching to make a positive impact on those around me.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the “old me” left the same day that Josh Smith left Atlanta for good. And for that, I am eternally grateful to my lifelong hero.

Without Josh Smith, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

 

*****

 

The 2005 Dunk Contest (that I ended up watching for the first time in 2010, forgive me) launched me to new heights. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me a hero, a hidden mentor, a sense of pride in the form of Josh Smith. His appearance – and disappearance – in my life gave me a newfound confidence to tackle any challenge that lies ahead.

Confidence is key, something that I’ve realized along my year-long journey through thought. Confidence comes from everywhere you look: yourself, your loved ones, your places of comfort, investing in hobbies, such as writing, that drive you to look at yourself in a different way.

That confidence is over-flowing in me and, more importantly for the purposes of this website, the Atlanta Hawks, according to a recent quote from Coach Bud. He summed up nearly everything I had hoped he would say. It truly hits home on both sides of the equation for me.

“I love our players. I love our team. (The first year) was a really great experience. We all have a lot of room for improvement, a lot of room for growth, the coaches, the players, the entire organization. But I think we are building it with the right kinds of players, the right kind of people.”

This chunk of words from Bud epitomizes who I am aiming to become; both in my own personal sense and in my “Atlanta life”, as well. It represents two different people inside, both fighting for the same goals. Both looking at the future with more confidence than ever before. Both excited about what next challenge approaches them. As the Hawks grow, so do I.

Atlanta’s head man continued to say, “I really think we are in a situation where we are just going to keep getting better and better.”

For both our sakes, I sure hope so.

 

 

 

If you’re interested, you can read Part One (a timeline of sorts) and Part Two (it’s just me being sad) at the links given.

FINAL

DET(23-32) 115 – 107 (25-29)ATL

Key Performers:
G. Monroe (DET): 22 pts, 15 reb, 2 ast, 2 blk
P. Millsap (ATL): 23 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

Both the Hawks and Pistons came into Friday night struggling to find themselves. Atlanta, battling through a myriad of injuries, had lost seven straight games heading into the Palace of Auburn Hills. While Detroit, under interim head coach John Loyer, had a three game losing streak of their own after winning their first game without summer hire Maurice Cheeks.

Something had to give, and it looked like it would be the Hawks’ streak in the first half. Powered behind an eight minute stretch where they team hit all thirteen shots they attempted, Atlanta pushed to an 11 point lead at halftime. Unfortunately for all the strengths the team showed through two quarters, it all fell apart in the third. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe ate up all the potential rebounds on their offensive glass, and Detroit had a 34 point third quarter. While Atlanta, who went into halftime shooting almost 60 percent, went 11-36 from the field in the second half. By the time Kyle Singler hit his second corner three in the last two minutes, it was over. And the Hawks losing streak was extended to eight.

Reaction grades [assessed 0-10]:

Paul Millsap: Millsap had a great game tonight in spite of the team falling short in the end. 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists is nothing to sneeze at, especially when he hit three out of his four shots from deep and found his way to the line enough times to gather 8 free throw attempts. He did what he could to put the team in good position to get the win. 7/10

DeMarre Carroll: Carroll’s impact on the game was small compared to his fellow starters, and it wasn’t special in anyway either. He was 2-7 from the field, was non-existent on the glass — in a game where he guards Josh Smith, that’s a priority —  and didn’t wreak any havoc defensively. 3/10

Kyle Korver: It wasn’t the best shooting night Korver has had this season, but it was also one of his better nights outside of scoring the basketball. He found a way to get three steals in the first quarter, supplied four assists, and helped clean the glass with 7 rebounds. He wasn’t a protruding positive with his play, but did all the little things to avoid being a minus. 5/10

Elton Brand: Brand did his best against an ultra big Pistons squad. He hustled, grabbed almost half of Atlanta’s offensive rebounds, and tried to defend well. Drummond and Monroe just weren’t having any of it. Despite two blocks from Elton, the Detroit duo went 20-28 from the field. That’s an issue. Brand might not have been the problem, but he didn’t look like the solution either. 4/10

Shelvin Mack: Mack’s statline is a lot prettier than his actual impact on this game. He scored the ball well on Brandon Jennings, which isn’t a surprise. His 21 points were actually a career high. However, as a facilitator, he was bland. Korver and Carroll combined for 5 turnovers, and both players are the kinds of guys you don’t want to see the ball in their hands outside of shooting the basketball. Shelvin scored well, but didn’t command the offense in a confident manner and that held weight in this contest. He also came away with a few turnover though, and had some really nice hustling rebounds in a spot start for Teague. 7/10 Continue Reading…

No Smoove, No Problem?

Brandon Barnes —  December 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

We knew going into this season that one of our franchise players was leaving for the Motor City. We knew that letting him walk was a move that improved our outlook on the future. We knew that we were losing one of the most dynamic forwards in the game.

We knew that bringing in Paul Millsap on a cheap cost-effective STEAL of a contract would help replace him. What we didn’t know, was that some parts of his game would be magically duplicated in different Hawks players this year.

So there’s that. And then there’s the fact that we also miss him deeply in many aspects of the game. It’s tough to replicate Josh Smith’s production, but these Hawks players are doing their best do make us forget about him.

Two is Better Than One

Danny Ferry, in a way, signed two players from Utah who, when combined, show Smoove-like abilities. Millsap has the inside play, DeMarre Carroll has the energy and (sometimes) solid defense (Not at Smoove’s level, but good). Both of them can shoot well from outside, too. Compared to Smoove’s 26% mark from beyond the arc this season, Trillsap and the Junk Yard Dog are shooting 41% and 32%, respectively. Both considerably better than the hometown stud.

Along with this, they both know how to play within their abilities. Sure, DeMarre goes through stretches where he may shoot a little too frequently, but at least they’re relatively open looks and that’s what he was signed in the offseason to do, anyway.

In Paul’s case, he’s a very “smoove” player. Much like Joe Johnson, he seems to be very calm and collected on the court, all while doing what he wishes with the ball in his hands. You don’t see him jawing with refs and getting techs left and right. He plays hard and he plays smart: two things that Danny Ferry wants from every member of the ballclub. Continue Reading…

If you’re a Hawks fan, get ready for a full season’s worth of trade rumors and speculation regarding this team. Bill Simmons declared the Hawks “built to trade” in his video preview of the Hawks’ season with Jalen Rose. And now Zach Lowe continues the theme in a piece for Grantland in which he suggests the Hawks may be in the market for Luol Deng or Omer Asik.

[Paul] Millsap is a valuable piece, and the Millsap/Al Horford pairing gives Atlanta impeccable spacing. But he’s also something of a Horford Lite, and if Danny Ferry can turn him into a game-changing wing or center (Omer Asik?), then they should at least think about it.

I polled the HawksHoop staff and the overwhelming reaction to this proposed trade was negative due to the spacing issues Lowe cited. Bo Churney also questioned whether Atlanta’s frugal ownership will want to pay Asik the $15 million owed in the last year of his poison pill contract (even though the cap hit is only $8 million, slightly less than what Millsap makes). Continue Reading…

FINAL

DET(4-8) 89 – 96 (8-5)ATL

Key Performers:
J. Teague (ATL): 18 pts, 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk
A. Drummond (DET): 15 pts, 16 reb, 2 blk
[FULL BOX SCORE]

The Hawks swept the home-and-home series against the Pistons, winning Friday night by a score of 96-89. The Hawks were really in control for the entire game, even though the Pistons led for a brief period of time in the fourth quarter. Jeff Teague had another masterful night running the offense and Al Horford got his double-double steelo back by recording 17 points and 11 boards. Josh Smith had another awful game for the Pistons, as he went 0-for-7 from the field with zero points off the bench. With this win, the Hawks are currently the third seed in the Eastern Conference.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: After going eight straight games without double-digit rebounds, Al grabbed 11 on Friday night to end that streak. Al had the highest plus-minus rating on the night, registering a plus-14. He was great defensively and his offense was equally impressive, as his and Teague’s running of the pick-and-roll was a large part of the Atlanta offense, even if the stats didn’t show up for Al in the box score. 8/10

Jeff Teague: Jennings did rack up 14 assists, but Jeff was definitely better on defense on Friday than he was in Wednesday’s matchup; Jennings was 4-for-16 from the field. On offense, Jeff was masterful once again, putting up 18 points, six rebounds, and nine assists. At this point in the season, it’s really hard to say there are a lot of point guards out there that are better than running an offense than Jeff Teague. Oh, and he had an amazing chase-down block on Brandon Jennings, but I can’t seem to find a good video of that. 9/10

Paul Millsap: When was the last time Millsap led the team in minutes? Well, he got 34 on the night and produced 14 points and seven rebounds. Otherwise, I’m not really sure what else to say about him… his production was solid, but very quiet. 7/10

DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre was all over the place in the fourth quarter. In that quarter alone, he had nine points, three offensive rebounds, and three steals. When the Pistons got ahead for a moment in the fourth, it was really DeMarre’s activity on both ends of the floor that allowed the Hawks to pull back ahead and stay ahead. 8/10

Kyle Korver: Something something streak, something something 86 games. Kyle was hot on the night, hitting four of his six attempts from beyond the arc. Korver scored 14 points in the game and his true-shooting percentage is up to 72.6%, which leads all qualified NBA players. 8/10 Continue Reading…

RECAP: Hawks 93, Pistons 85

Bo Churney —  November 21, 2013 — 2 Comments

FINAL

DET(4-7) 85 – 93 (7-5)ATL

Key Performers:
D. Carroll (ATL): 11 pts, 12 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk
B. Jennings (DET): 21 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast
[FULL BOX SCORE]

This isn’t the place to talk about Josh Smith’s return to Atlanta; you can see that here.

The Hawks used a 50-39 second half score to beat the Pistons in the first of their four matchups this season. Despite the victory, the Hawks had a lot of holes, turning the ball over 21 times and allowing the Pistons to get 15 offensive rebounds. The Hawks did control the paint on the offensive end, however, by getting to the free throw line 24 times. In true Hawk fashion, they only made 70% of those free throws.

Reaction Grades: [assessed 0-10]

Al Horford: Odd game from Horford in this one. He only took seven shots, but the Hawks were able to use his masterful defensive performance to carry them over the top. Horford had five blocked shots on the night, and he was a menace for Detroit’s pick-and-roll attack. That being said, I’d still prefer him to be taking more than seven shots in a game. 7.5/10

Jeff Teague: Five turnovers from Teague, but that was a team issue tonight more than it was a Jeff issue. Otherwise, Teague was great at running the offense, finishing the game with 18 points and seven assists. Defensively, he was a bit of a mess tonight, as he let Brandon Jennings get away from him way too often. 6/10

Paul Millsap: Good to see Paul back in the starting lineup after sitting out the Miami game. Millsap did well, scoring 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting. That was about it, as he only played 28 minutes on the night. 7/10

DeMarre Carroll: DeMarre might have been the best player on the floor for the Hawks in last night’s game. He did very well at limiting Josh Smith’s opportunities in the paint, grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, and even added 11 points, three assists, two blocks, and two steals. Great job by DeMarre to fill up the stat sheet. 9/10

Kyle Korver: Speaking of stat sheets, the way Kyle is filling up the box score so far this season is pretty impressive. On the season, Kyle is averaging over 12 points, four rebounds, almost three assists, and a steal and a block. Oh, and he’s shooting over 50% on threes and has a three-point streak of 85 games. 6/10 Continue Reading…

For those who love statistics, this year represents a new analytic era with the introduction of SportVU optical tracking data to the NBA audience. NBA.com’s stats page is currently featuring early returns from SportVU’s tracking cameras that have now been installed in every NBA arena.

SportVU has been used in other sports such as soccer to track the total number of miles run and average speed for an entire match, which helps teams measure a player’s work rate and fitness. This data is now being made available to the NBA and its followers, and in the process whole new statistical categories have been created. Interestingly, several Hawks players grade out well in these new, more precise metrics.

Rebounding chances tracks the number of rebounds that occur while a player is within 3.5 feet. Among players with at least 10 rebounding chances per game, Al Horford presently ranks 3rd in the NBA by collecting 74.6% of rebounds per chance. Only DeAndre Jordan (80.4%) and Paul George (77.8%) rank higher. Continue Reading…

2012-13 Record: 45-37 (8th in West)z-rockets

Playoff Result: Lost in First Round

Key Additions: Reggie Williams (free agent), Omri Casspi (free agent)) – oh and that Dwight Howard guy.

Key Losses: Carlos Delfino (free agent), Thomas Robinson (trade)

Projected 2013-14 Record: 52-30 (5th in West)*

What to Expect: Here’s the thing with Houston. Last year they were exceptional on offense with a very efficiency-driven approach. That meant a lot of threes and a lot of free throws. The flip side was that they were “meh” defensively with the team relying on Omer Asik in his first year as a starter and defensive anchor and Carlos Delfino who was 31. What changed? Well, they got Dwight freakin’ Howard.

Now immediately you think Dwight Howard, top echelon center, on top of this young and prolific core of James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley/Jeremy Lin means a cemented spot among the top teams in the Western Conference.

Yes, and no.

The Rockets’ biggest issue was their defense, and nabbing Howard to take Asik’s spot wasn’t a huge upgrade. Howard is obviously better at that end, but questions remain about his health with the back problem that seemingly has been bothersome for over a year. Not to mention that Houston really has little help defensively for Dwight, losing Delfino and quite possibly starting Lin over the defensive spark-plug Beverley this year. One could say starting Asik with Howard would alleviate these concerns, and that’s true, but they’d just bring up spacing ones on the other end. Obviously, Howard is a major upgrade over Asik in terms of offense. Continue Reading…

2012-13 Record:29-53 (11th in East)z-pistons

Playoff Result: N/A

Key Additions: Josh Smith (free agent), Brandon Jennings (trade), Chauncey Billups (free agent), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (draft)

Key Losses: Brandon Knight (trade), Jose Calderon (free agent), Corey Maggette (a GREAT move)

Predicted 2013-14 Record: 35-47 (11th in East)*

What to Expect: This post is not a sermon, but it starts with a Bible verse anyway:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” – Mark 6:4

If ever there was an athlete who could relate to the ancient tradition of finding appreciation away from home, it’s Josh Smith. With Smith in the fold, the Detroit Pistons have made one of the most significant leaps in talent of any NBA team this off-season. As such, I expect the Pistons to make a concomitant leap in the standings.

Numerous writers have focused on the negative aspects of the signing, such as the spacing issues caused by Smith’s poor outside touch. I believe that the positives vastly outweigh the negatives. While the Pistons will definitely struggle with outside shooting (Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings aren’t much better from 3-point range than Smith), the team will make up for it in a number of ways. Continue Reading…

2012-13 Record: 66-16 (1st in East)Z-Miami

Playoff Result: Won NBA Finals

Key Additions: Chris Andersen (re-signed), Greg Oden (free agent)

Key Losses: Mike Miller (amnesty provision)

Predicted 2013-14 Record: 63-19 (1st in East)*

What to Expect: Miami will be looking to three-peat as NBA champions, something that hasn’t been done since the early 2000′s Lakers. At 28, LeBron James appears to keep getting better as he continues to work on the more technical aspects of the game. James will look to lead the league in PER for a 7th consecutive season, which would tie Michael Jordan for most consecutive seasons of leading the league in that stat.

However, despite being the favorites for the title again, Miami is starting to show some cracks in their armor. Both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh experienced injury problems for a second straight postseason, leading some to wonder if the two will be able to hold up for at least one more year. There’s no denying that Wade looked awful during the playoffs (TS% under .500), but with the injuries he had, it’s hard to say that performance is the new norm for him. Sure, he may have had his injury issues throughout the year, but he still managed to put up great stats during the regular season. If coach Erik Spoelstra can manage him minutes properly, Wade could continue to be the force that we’ve come to expect from him since he entered the league. Continue Reading…