Apr 11, 2012, 6:00 PM EDT
You want him to get it. So badly. But in wanting him to get it, you’re missing how much he’s doing. If you focus on what he’s doing, you’re missing how much he doesn’t get it. And all the while you’re not sure if he’s just oblivious to what goes on around him, to the reasons for people “hating” on his mid-range, or if he’s hyper-aware and deliberately messing with critics and a franchise that continues to hold onto him despite his wishes otherwise. He’s fierce, he’s confusing, he’s frustrating, he’s incredible.
He’s Josh Smith.
From Lang Whitaker at The Classical:
Even though I’ve known Josh Smith since the night he was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, I am not sure I will ever completely know Josh Smith. 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?
I’m not the only one: NBA fans in general don’t seem to know what to make of Josh. Even though everyone knows long jumpers aren’t his forte, he still occasionally lofts them at the rim, eliciting loud criticisms from Hawks fans. (At least when those shots carom off.) Fans see Josh flash a sour face when a call goes against him or the Hawks, and don’t seem quite to get his perceived obstinacy. These are the two biggest criticisms regularly lodged against Smith, and though both are mostly outdated this point, Smith seems to still be paying for past mistakes.
Back in 2008, I interviewed Josh for SLAM, and I asked him how he feels about fans criticizing his game or his attitude. “I really can’t talk about all that,” Josh said, “because people don’t know me. You know me, you see me in the locker room, you see how I act, you see me in person. So everyone who’s trying to take down my character, I don’t have nothing to say, because they haven’t seen me face to face or they haven’t sat down and had a conversation with me.
Here are a few things we know about Smith in the context of the modern NBA.
- He’s having a monster season, posting a career high in points and rebounds per 36. His percentages are down with his usage up. He’s able to take over a game and when engaged, there is no matchup for him. His post moves against small opponents are devastating, his driving game against larger power forwards a total mismatch. There are about ten players league wide who can effectively check him one-on-one when he decides to be aggressive.
- He doesn’t decide to be aggressive. Synergy Sports tell us that Smith elects for a jumpshot 48 percent of the time, versus post-ups and scores at the basket which account for 49 percent of his possessions. And the weirder trend is that Smith has actually moved more in that direction over the past three seasons, despite his percentages getting worse. Here’s what the percentage of Smith’s shots at each point on the floor are over the past three seasons.
And here’s what his actual shooting percentages look like over that same time span:
So he shot a record high percentage last year, that still wasn’t very good (red means bad), and yet he has responded by… shooting even more mid-range jump shots! /facepalm.
But then you see the kind of percentages in the paint, and rebounding, and the assists, and the steals, and the blocks, and the key plays. Smith is a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. He’s an absolute monster and arguably the biggest reason year in and year out that the Hawks aren’t just a playoff team, but a middle-seed one. Their underwhelming assortment of talent and style aside, they’ve been a really good team for the past five seasons. They just have.
And yet Smith is not an All-Star. He’s religiously passed up over what he feels are “political” reasons. Even that, though, is baffling. Smith isn’t outspoken, he doesn’t trash his teammates nor his coaches on a consistent basis. He’s not a sterling example of friendliness, but who cares? The man can ball at the highest level.
Smith has had a rocky relationship with the Hawks, though not an explosive one. He was signed to an offer sheet by Memphis after no one else extended him an offer in restricted free agency a few years ago, because they all assumed the Hawks would match. The Grizzlies had some cap room to spare and threw out a figure. The Hawks matched, getting Smith back at a discount. He’s asked for a trade consistently since then, to no avail. And with the way most people consider his game, mentally unstable in decision-making offensively, complete without being comprehensive, I keep coming back to the same question.
What do you want to bet in New York, Los Angeles, or Boston Josh Smith is an All-Star? I’m not arguing that it’s an issue of market. Atlanta is a huge market and a perennial playoff team. But you have to think that on a team that welcomed him in as a star, with top level talent and conceivably a top level coach, that Smith would “get it.” That those jumpshots would become either out of the pick and roll or more attacks at the rim. To put it another way, is Josh Smith being held back in his prime?
We’re left to wonder about this as the Hawks steam towards another inevitable first or second round exit, another “good year, not great” for a team that is “good, not great.” We’ll continue to wonder if Josh Smith is capable of being greatness, or if it’s the spirit that defines his game that renders him just on the cusp of immortality, and if in another set of circumstances, another life, if that spirit might form something altogether greater.
Pacers’ coach Vogel explains decision to bench Hibbert late, says ‘we’ll probably have him in next time’
May 23, 2013, 1:49 AM EDT
The Heat came away with the 103-102 overtime victory over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, thanks to a triple-double performance from LeBron James, which included hitting the game-winning layup as time expired. The words “game-winning layup” should never be a relevant phrase this deep into the postseason; teams normally defend…
May 23, 2013, 1:16 AM EDT
The Pacers gave the Heat all they wanted in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but in the end, the game’s best player — along with some questionable coaching strategy down the stretch — was too much for Indiana to overcome. LeBron James finished with a triple-double line of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and…
May 23, 2013, 12:28 AM EDT
Paul George hit a big time shot at the end of regulation to get the Pacers to overtime, but once we got to the end of the extra session, LeBron James took his turn at the last-second heroics. With the Heat trailing by one and 2.2 seconds remaining, James receives the inbounds pass and immediately…
May 22, 2013, 11:50 PM EDT
At the beginning of this possession, it looked like Paul George of the Pacers made a huge mistake by not raising up for the shot when he first received the ball at the top of the arc. As the seconds ticked away and with the Pacers down three, things seemed to be breaking down to…
May 22, 2013, 9:52 PM EDT
Carmelo Anthony’s shoulder was clearly bothering him through much of the playoffs, but he fought through it as best he could averaging 28.8 points per game (on just 40.1 percent shooting, down from 44 in the regular season) with 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He injured it in Game 5 against the Celtics and went…
May 22, 2013, 9:02 PM EDT
Mike Krzyzewski coming back to coach Team USA for the 2016 Rio Olympics is certainly a good step toward another gold medal for the Americans. Coach K has been 62-1 at the helm of USA Basketball. But it’s not the biggest key. That would be getting LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the elite talent of…
May 22, 2013, 7:36 PM EDT
Economists have done countless studies that show the economic impact of major league sports — and especially the impact of building new arenas and stadiums — are pretty negligible, often even painful for individual cities. I believe that. But it’s still hard to explain just what it meant to Charlotte to get the Hornets. We…
May 22, 2013, 7:32 PM EDT
We mentioned this in our story telling you Mike Krzyzewski will be back as head coach of Team USA for the 2016 Olympics — there might be some changes to his staff. One bit of news is in — Mike D’Antoni is out as an assistant coach, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.…
May 22, 2013, 5:16 PM EDT
For the next few weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about one of the best dunker’s in the game right now. San Diego State is turning out some talent under Steve Fisher the last few years. That Kawhi Leonard guy is giving the Grizzlies…
May 22, 2013, 3:43 PM EDT
It’s no secret that the Dallas Mavericks want to get a big star to pair with — and eventually take over the franchise mantle from — Dirk Nowitzki. And there are only two franchise-caliber players on the market this season, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. But to offer a max contract Dallas has to make…
May 22, 2013, 3:21 PM EDT
Kevin Durant has a plenty of business tattoos — he’s got ink, just not where it shows when wearing a basketball uniform. Somehow this shocked people, although if most of those people saw the 25-year-old from accounting they think so highly of out on the weekend they’d find he has ink under his suit to.…
May 22, 2013, 2:43 PM EDT
Not that there was any real question after he played in Game 5 against the Bulls then had a week off to rest his bruised knee but now it is official: Dwyane Wade will play for the Heat in Game 1 against the Pacers Wednesday night. So reports Tim Reynolds of the AP and the…
May 22, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT
There is no need to panic Spurs fans. Not yet. Tony Parker has been playing through a sore calf for a while now and playing well — to the tune of 14 points and 18 assists in the Spurs overtime win Tuesday night. But after the game he was limping a little around the locker…
May 22, 2013, 1:09 PM EDT
Looks like Kevin Love will not have to do any recruiting after all. After saying before, during and immediately after Team USA won the gold medal in London last summer that he was done as the head coach of the team, Mike Krzyzewski has had a change of heart. Coach K will be back to…
May 22, 2013, 12:55 PM EDT
We said as much in our story telling you Vinny Del Negro was not coming back to the Clippers — this was what Chris Paul wanted. Clippers owner Donald Sterling personally liked Del Negro a lot and was his biggest supporter in the organization, so something had to override that. It was free agent to…
May 22, 2013, 11:54 AM EDT
If you want to know what happens when you to right at Indiana’s Roy Hibbert at the rim, watch the video above or ask Carmelo Anthony — Hibbert sent him back dramatically in Game 6 last round. It changed the momentum of the game that eventually sent the Knicks fishing for the summer. So, LeBron…
May 22, 2013, 11:14 AM EDT
Whenever the Memphis Grizzlies’ season ends — which could be sooner rather than later if they don’t start cutting off Tony Parker at the point of attack, but that’s another post — Lionel Hollins is going to be a popular guy. Hollins’ contract is up as coach of the end of this season, and while…
May 22, 2013, 10:25 AM EDT
Who do you want to believe? Monday came a report from the very reliable Dave McMenamin at ESPNLosAngeles.com that in his exit interview Dwight Howard expressed frustration with coach Mike D’Antoni to GM Mitch Kupchak. Which isn’t hard to believe if you watched the Lakers at all this year. But when Kevin Ding of the…
May 22, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
NEW YORK – Kevin Love and Flip Saunders shared lunch yesterday, as both were headed to the NBA Draft lottery that night. They talk about the same issues that dominate their bi-daily conversations – leadership, expectations, workouts and, as Saunders put it, “more than anything, just about the vision that we have and how we…
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