HANG TIME, TEXAS — Along with electricity, gravity and the remote control, we can add one more item to the list of things we take for granted.
Is it because he plays in Atlanta, where the home team usually has been far less entertaining and satisfying than the home team down the road at the TNT studio?
Is it because to the Hawks, life beyond the second round of the playoffs is as mythical as Xanadu or the lost continent of Atlantis?
Is it because of all of Smith’s ill-timed, ill-thought 3-pointers that have resulted in dents in the wall from where we slammed our heads?
Here are some names to consider: Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett and J-Smoove.
No, the commonality is not merely that they are all bipeds. It is an honor roll that, by the end of this season, should consist of the only nine players in history to have compiled 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots with the same NBA team.
In an excellent piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chris Vivlamore notes that it is the chip on his shoulder that drives Smith on:
“I’ve definitely accomplished a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t think I would accomplish but I’ve always believed in myself,” said Smith, who insists he doesn’t pay attention to statistics. I’m definitely confident. I’m a confident person and I have a hard work ethic.”
The Hawks used the 17th overall selection of the 2004 draft to pick Smith straight out of high school. The words of Jay Bilas on draft night still ring in Smith’s ears, even though he refuses to mention the ESPN analyst by name. At the time of the selection, 10 picks after the Hawks selected Josh Childress, Bilas said this of Smith: “If you had to pick which guy was most likely to be a bust in the first round, it would be this guy. He has no right hand and he can’t shoot.”
While some considered the pick a long-shot, Smith believes quite the opposite.
“I felt like I should have been drafted earlier but things happen,” Smith said. “I’m still here. There are a lot of people that went in front of me that aren’t in this league. When I got called, people said I was going to be the biggest bust in my draft. One particular person. It’s all good. I prevailed. I persevered through all the negativity. I will continue to keep working hard to continue to prove those people wrong.”
Go back to that list of the nine names. While the first eight have all won at least a single MVP award, Smith has never even been named once to play in the All-Star Game. His individual recognition has been as NBA slam dunk champion (2005), All-Rookie Second Team (2005) and All-Defensive Second Team (2010)
The voting for the 2013 All-Star Game in Houston will begin in just a few weeks and by the time the rosters are chosen, there will the usual hue and cry from all over the NBA map about those who were snubbed. Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Philly’s Andrew Bynum (as a Laker) and Denver’s Andre Iguodala (as a Sixer) finally made their maiden All-Star voyages last season. Zach Randolph did it in 2010. This time the cases might be made for Rudy Gay, Andrew Bogut, Luis Scola, Al Jefferson or Greg Monroe.
But whether you’re filling out your ballot online or the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, the smart choice would be to look past all the noise and stop taking Josh Smith for granted.