Trying to figure out the Hawks’ approach to Josh Smith is a trick. They don’t regularly campaign for Smith for the All-Star teams and have never made a fuss when he’s not selected despite it routinely being pretty terrible. They wouldn’t give him a big deal when he was a restricted free agent in 2008, instead letting him hang out there despite no one signing him to an offer sheet because, well, they knew the Hawks would match. At the last minute, the Grizzlies tried to steal him away, but the Hawks matched, getting Smith at a discount. He’s openly and publicly let it be known he wants a trade. They won’t deal him.
Do they want him there? Yes, apparently. Will they pay to keep him? Apparently not.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Smith about whether he would be talking to the Hawks about an extension he’s available for this summer. Not only did Smith say no, apparently no one, not even his agent, have brought it up to him. Smith doesn’t even think he’s eligible.
“I can’t get extended,” Smith said. “They didn’t give me the money; I had to go get it. That’s something I have to play it out and see how it goes from there.”
Two things stand out about that statement. The first is that Smith, who presumably got the info from his agent, is wrong about his contract not being eligible for an extension.
Turns out he is available for extension. The Hawks just aren’t working on it. So the Hawks won’t trade him somewhere he’ll be happier and can really showcase his talents (you have to think in a stronger system his mid-range jump shooting might decline), but they won’t give him the money to keep him long-term, despite having given Joe Johnson that suicidal contract, and then extending Al Horford for the max.
What is it, exactly, that the Hawks are trying to do with Josh Smith?
No one can really figure it out. If those teams that are shopping for a major upgrade can’t find what they’re looking for, they really should try and make a move for Smith. He was a should-be All-Star the past two years, is entering his prime, and has shown flashes of brilliance. He needs coaching to curtail his worse impulses, but could also be the difference in a championship team. They just have to figure out what to do with him.
Because the Hawks do not.