HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Josh Smith‘s days of playing before an ambivalent crowd at Philips Arena are numbered. If we’re reading the trade deadline tea leaves correctly, he might even be down to his final 48 minutes there on Wednesday night when the Hawks host the Heat.
The Hawks’ attempts to convince Smith to stick around until the summer, when he’d be a free agent, have not slowed a number of teams pursuing the versatile power forward.
In fact, the list of teams with reported interest in Smith seems to grow with every tick of the trade deadline clock. The Hawks have let it be known that they are willing to move the Atlanta native by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. And a player with his unique arsenal of skills can fit in any system.
The Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers are all either in full-blown pursuit or monitoring the situation closely in the hopes of landing Smith via trade … or perhaps later via free agency. That leaves the Hawks in the position of being very selective with their decision, while also needing to act now. There will be fewer potential trade partners to work with in July, courtesy of the particulars of the new collective bargaining agreement.
The max-deal conversation that has raged for weeks was, like many things in the Twitter era, not fully understood by most of the people. They were simply repeating the stories of Smith and the Hawks agreeing to disagree about his value to the team that drafted him with the 17th pick overall in the 2004 Draft.
Smith never said he demanded a max deal or else from the Hawks. A source close to Smith confirmed that the conversation between the two sides never ventured into that realm. Smith simply answered a question the way you’d expect any competitive NBA player to answer it when presented with the premise of “Do you think you are worth max money?”
The funny thing is the Hawks, spanning two different front office regimes, have never really made clear what monetary value they have assigned to Smith. His current deal — he’s in the final year of a five-year, $58 million contract — was one the Hawks had to match after the Memphis Grizzlies made a play for him as a restricted free agent in 2008. It’s a bargain for a player who has been as productive as he has during that time.
Since basically his first season, Smith has been on the proverbial trade market every February. And the Hawks have drafted player after player (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams, Al Horford) who were supposed to supplant Smith as the team’s best option at his position. Yet Smith has been steady. For every knock on his game — the ill-advised jump shots no one wants him to take, the spotty decision-making and the well-publicized dust-ups with coaches Mike Woodson and Larry Drew — there are things Smith and only a handful of other players can do on a given night.
Two players in the entire league average better than 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Reigning league MVP LeBron James is one of them and Smith is the other. Smith is the only player averaging better than 17, 8, 4 and one block (he actually averages 2.1).
When the Hawks traded six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to the Nets last summer, the playoff forecast for the franchise changed dramatically. Smith and Horford were left to lead a team of good role players that few people expected to be among the Eastern Conference’s best teams early this season.
There is a high probability that Hawks fans who have grown disenchanted with Smith’s game over the nearly nine years he’s played before hometown crowds. That throng will get their wish and see him move on. It’s up to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry to sort through the mess and find the right deal (with the most assets — players, draft picks, etc. — they can get for their best player).
And all indications are that’s exactly what he’ll do by Thursday’s deadline.
MORE RUMORS & CHATTER
What would the trade deadline be without at least a little crumble from the season-long Dwight Howard-Kobe Bryant drama? Per a Fox Sports Ohio report, Bryant has let Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak know that he’s fine with trading Howard (never mind that Kupchak has made it clear that the has no plans to move the big fella):
With 29 regular-season games remaining and the playoffs still in sight, Kobe Bryant is more determined than ever to prove he and the Lakers can become the force they thought they were.
Whether center Dwight Howard is a part of that attempted revival doesn’t matter to Bryant, sources familiar with Bryant’s thinking told FOX Sports Ohio.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has strongly nixed the notion that Howard could be moved prior to Thursday’s trading deadline. But if Kupchak changes his mind, he’d have Bryant’s full support, according to sources.
While Bryant and Howard aren’t close, no rift exists between them, either. Still, Bryant appears uncertain if Howard is the right fit on a team that must put together a fervent finish just to qualify for the postseason — and one that is unlikely to possess home-court advantage in any round if it does get there.
The Lakers exited the All-Star break at an underachieving 25-29 and 3½ games out of the final playoff spot.
Optimists will point to the fact they’ve won eight of their previous 12 games. But they lost 125-101 to the Clippers on the final night before All-Star weekend — in a game that resembled little more than 48 minutes of garbage time.
But are they really ready to deal their backup point guard Eric Bledsoe? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com examines whether or not the Clippers are just posturing or serious about doing something:
Though it’s all but a foregone conclusion that Chris Paul will re-sign with the Clippers this summer, rival execs are skeptical that the Clips would risk trading Bledsoe if there’s even the slightest doubt about CP3′s future — not to mention the slightest possibility of an injury to the All-Star MVP that would derail their push to contend for a title this season. Conversations with the Celtics about Kevin Garnett are dormant for now as both teams evaluate their options.
During the crazy season that is the weeks and days leading up to the trade deadline there are rumored deals that makes sense and deals that make anything but sense. Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com sports his GM camp and came up with five deals that he believes make sense, this Jazz-Spurs swap being the most interesting:
Why it Makes Sense for Utah: They will lose Jefferson for nothing this summer if he leaves as a free agent, and they have a capable starting center in Enes Kanter who is ready to move into a bigger role. They are not fooling themselves into thinking they are a championship contender this season, and they get a return on Jefferson along with a point guard to keep the playmaker seat warm until Mo Williams is ready to return. Kanter/Splitter ain’t bad at center for the next five years. If they do a Paul Millsap deal, too, they trade him for their future PG.
Why it Makes Sense for San Antonio: They upgrade at center from Splitter, whose game has improved considerably, and they get a center whose defensive shortcomings are well-chronicled but can be fixed with the proper prodding from the proper coach, Gregg Popovich. They strengthen what is already the best team in the West, and they get the payoff they were after since the day they hired Scott Layden away from the Jazz to be their assistant GM. They also make a deal with their “incestuous” buddies (explained in the link).
Will It Happen? I lean 60-40 in favor of yes. Jazz can’t lose Jefferson for nothing, and GM Dennis Lindsey was in Spurs’ front office when they got Lorbek’s rights from Pacers in George Hill deal. Lorbek is good.
Both Sheridan and Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld have mentioned the Knicks and Magic having discussions about a potential Iman Shumpert for J.J. Redick deal. But those rumors are being disputed by Shumpert’s agent, Happy Walters, who told CBS New York that it’s all much ado about nothing:
On Monday, Walters, disputed a report from Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com, which stated the 22-year-old was unhappy with his role and may be pushing for a trade.
“For the record, no one has requested an Iman trade from the Knicks. The report from Chris Sheridan is incorrect,” Walters tweeted. “@sheridanhoops needs to check facts before reporting. As Iman’s agent, you would think I would get a call fact checking a report. Really?”
Walters also said Shumpert’s reported unhappiness with the Knicks was “Totally false.”
Walters isn’t the only one refuting those Knicks-Magic trade reports. Redick told the Orlando Sentinel‘s Josh Robbins that the Magic are open to re-signing him, despite persistent rumors that they are shopping their veteran sharpshooter:
Redick said Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has told him that the team is “open” to re-signing him when he becomes a free agent this summer. Hennigan has stayed in touch with Redick and with Redick’s agent, Arn Tellem, in recent weeks.
“But this is a business. I have to make a business decision. And I know this from experience, regardless of any personal feelings or any emotional attachment to anything, a team is going to do what they feel is best for the team. And there won’t be any hard feelings if I get traded in three days or if they elect not to re-sign me this summer.”
Of course, plenty of time remains before the trade deadline arrives, and a deal for Redick or any of the Magic’s other veteran players still could be put together.
Hennigan, who rarely discusses team personnel issues publicly, has declined opportunities to comment about the team’s plans.
Redick is trying not to think about the possibility that Tuesday night will be his final home game as a member of the Magic.
“You’re dealing with another hypothetical,” Redick said. “I think that the right thing to do is to assume that I’ll be playing here for the Magic on Saturday night against Cleveland.”
Eric Gordon has been here before, in the trade rumors crosshairs, and felt the sting of being dealt. The Clippers moved him to get their hands on Paul. He also signed an offer sheet with the Suns last summer, only to have the Hornets match the offer. So hearing his named tossed around is just a part of the process for the veteran shooting guard, as he explained to Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune:
“For any player that goes from team to team, whatever the situation is, it’s all about playing basketball. And it’s good to represent whatever organization you’re in. I’m here. And I look forward to being here. That’s that. Our team is building as one. And we’ll see what goes on from here.
“I’m not really worried about it,” Gordon said. “I’ve just got to go out and play my game and look forward to this week. Whatever happens, happens. It’s happened to be before where I was traded. Business is business. I really don’t worry about that. I’m just focused on this team.”
That’s what everyone says in the final days/hours before the deadline.
What else can they say?