Apr 11, 2012, 6:00 PM EST
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 These are the two biggest criticisms regularly lodged against Smith, and though both are mostly outdated this point, Smith seems to still be paying for past mistakes.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.
Dec 12, 2013, 8:30 AM EST
By D.J. Foster All over the league, we’ve seen young teams fighting against the tank. If the playoffs started today, the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns would be in the playoffs. This was unfathomable a few months ago. It wasn’t just about their rosters being bad – they were supposed to be bad. The Milwaukee…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:21 AM EST
Our quick look around the association on a busy Wednesday night. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks. Stoudemire played 30 minutes. Stoudemire was clutch, hitting a key jumper with less than 3 minutes to go after the Bulls had stormed from 23 points back to tie the game. Stoudemire played good interior defense. Stoudemire showed a…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:02 AM EST
Dallas had a 10-point lead with 8 minutes left and still were up 6 with less than two minutes to go, but no lead is safe when Golden State is at home. No lead is safe against Stephen Curry Curry had a four-point play a minute before that allowed Golden State to get back from…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:34 AM EST
Very classy Boston. Doc Rivers returned to Boston Wednesday night as the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. He’d been in Boston nine seasons and won a ring, but there was some question about how he would be received after a rocky split this summer between the sides. Wednesday night it was all love, there…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:33 PM EST
Tom Chambers, the popular former Suns star player and current broadcaster, has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, reports the Arizona Republic. Chambers has issued an apology to the Suns organization and its fans. The Arizona Republic has all the details, and they are not pretty. Chambers, 54, was pulled over about 9:45…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:28 PM EST
Jeff Van Gundy is a lead analyst for ESPN, and would normally have been the color commentator on the national broadcast of the Knicks-Bulls contest aired on ESPN Wednesday night. But due to a complicated set of circumstances, Van Gundy didn’t participate. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has the details: ESPN executives and analyst Jeff…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:03 PM EST
Chris Paul finding DeAndre Jordan for an alley-oop slam should be simply another chapter in the ongoing Lob City saga that the Clippers players have no interest in embracing. But whether the end result is a dunk or something else entirely, it seems destined to end up on highlight reels nonetheless. Early on in the…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:46 PM EST
Carmelo Anthony has been with Jordan Brand for 10 years now, and as he explains in the video clip above, there’s a nod to the past within the design of his latest signature shoe, the Melo M10. From the official release: “If you see this shoe from afar, the chrome statement piece is the first…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:23 PM EST
We told you this was coming and now a real has been reached: D.J. Augustin is about to be a Chicago Bulls. Augustin cleared waivers on Wednesday and has reached a deal as a free agent with Chicago, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Augustin needs to pass a physical with the Bulls on Thursday.…
Dec 11, 2013, 6:55 PM EST
We told you already Justin Timberlake was in Indianapolis last night, sitting courtside to watch the Pacers beat the Heat then playing a little H-O-R-S-E with Paul George. As an in-arena promotion, the Pacers have a bit where Danny Granger sings a long with a song in his headphones — and he can’t sing —…
Dec 11, 2013, 5:43 PM EST
Omer Asik wants to get traded. He’s said that since this summer, but it hasn’t happened as Rockets GM Daryl Morey isn’t going to move until he thinks he has a good deal. That’s not fast enough for Asik, who made a move and changed agents to one known for helping guys get moved. So…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:37 PM EST
In the latest edition of PBT Extra, Kay Adams asks about the Pacers win over the Heat Tuesday — I don’t read much into any regular season meeting between these games. That said, I still stand by my pick of the Pacers to win the NBA title this year. Then we shift our focus to…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:12 PM EST
Dwight Howard improved after after the All-Star break last season – before All-Star break: 16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds per game; after All-Star break: 18.4 points and 13.6 rebounds per game – and the reason is no secret: His back got healthier. But that wasn’t the only factor. Howard told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com he…
Dec 11, 2013, 3:39 PM EST
The Charlotte Bobcats’ outlook is changing. When they signed Al Jefferson this summer, the theory was they would rather be pedestrianly bad rather than historically bad – even if that meant lower lottery odds. I argued Charlotte should go all-in to be totally bad for another season, and that pulling in itself in opposite directions…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:36 PM EST
The Warriors need big-man depth. Festus Ezeli has been out all season. Jermaine O’Neal and Draymond Green are banged up. Marreese Speights can’t gain Mark Jackson’s trust. Andre Iguodala is injured, too, and although he mostly plays on the wing, his absence the number of minutes he and Harrison Barnes can soak up as a…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
From the frivolous lawsuit file here at PBT… A Clippers fan is suing he team for $5 million claiming they are spamming his phone with unwanted texts. TMZ got ahold of the lawsuit and has some details. The guy behind the lawsuit is Ari Friedman — who claims he went to a game at Staples…
Dec 11, 2013, 1:30 PM EST
In case you needed a good laugh today — Jason Kidd says he is reading the “reports” that reassigned assistant coach Lawrence Frank is writing. That’s what he told the New York Post. “I’ve been reading the reports [Frank is filing], and that’s as far as it’s going.” Riiiight. Now, if it the reports read…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:41 PM EST
That’s bloody brilliant. It’s my new favorite NBA Christmas video. The Bulls had kept the band together to make one more run at a title with Derrick Rose leading them, but when Rose went down that dream was dashed and it was time to talk retooling the roster. You can bet Luol Deng will be…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:08 PM EST
Boston fans felt jilted by Doc Rivers — they thought he would stay with them through the pain of rebuilding, instead he took off for the hot young thing in Los Angeles. Outside Boston few blamed him, in Boston fans felt dumped. Rivers kept saying it was mutual, Celtics fans were having none of it.…
Dec 11, 2013, 11:44 AM EST
.@Paul_George24 and @jtimberlake playing H-O-R-S-E now. Notice coach Vogel and Burke watching in the corner. http://t.co/fThtkA6AXb— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) December 11, 2013 If you watched the Pacers come-from-behind win over the Heat Tuesday night you probably saw the shots of Justin Timberlake in the crowd. Somehow he was able to swing court side seats, hope…
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