Hawks in conference finals — and so is Josh Smith (with Houston)

Former Hawk Josh Smith celebrates a basket during Houston’s series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Former Hawk Josh Smith celebrates a basket during Houston's series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Former Hawk Josh Smith celebrates a basket during Houston’s series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

So what’s the bigger surprise: That the Hawks have made it to the NBA’s Final Four or that Josh Smith has reached the same previously unfamiliar height?

Smith, the former polarizing Hawks’ forward whose NBA career seemed in doubt after being released by Detroit in December, has become a valuable core player for the Houston Rockets. Honest. Smith started for the third straight game Sunday, and the Rockets won for the third straight game. They rallied for a 3-1 series deficit to the Los Angeles Clippers, winning Sunday 113-100 to reach the Western Conference finals.

Smith’s totals Sunday: 15 points, a rebound and a blocked shot. (The Rockets are 6-1 in the playoffs when he scores 10 or more points.)

The Hawks didn’t try to keep Smith when he became an unrestricted free agent. Detroit paid him to go away after signing him to a regrettable four-year, $54 million contract in free agency. Why? Because neither team believed it could succeed in the playoffs with him. The Hawks never got past the second round with Smith, but then they never got past the second round with anybody before this season.

Smith, perhaps humbled by his exit in Detroit, has not caused any problems in Houston. He averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 blocks in 25 minutes in 55 games, mostly off the bench. In the last three playoff games, all won by Houston, he totaled 43 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in about 70 minutes.

Also, he was 7 for 14 on three-point shots.

Here’s some visual evidence of Smith’s contributions when he scored 19 points in Game 6:

So how’s this for a scenario: Hawks vs. Josh Smith in the NBA finals? (Nevermind that Houston will be an underdog to Golden State and Cleveland will be favored over the Hawks in the respective conference finals.) The Hawks already faced Joe Johnson in the first-round series against Brooklyn and Johnson was booed seemingly every time he touched the ball in Philips Arena.

During his nine seasons in Atlanta, Smith could be either the best or worst player on the court, sometimes both in the same quarter. General manager Danny Ferry showed no interest in re-signing him. In Detroit, Smith had a dreadful first season, was benched by former coach Maurice Cheeks and took exception with Cheeks’ assertion that he wasn’t giving a full effort: “It’s an honor for me to play, you know what I’m saying?  So when anybody challenges — or anything about the fact that, you know, about me not wanting to play — then I take real offense to it.”

New coach Stan Van Gundy predictably didn’t take to Smith, either, and the Pistons waived the forward on Dec. 22. They’re paying the balance of his contract. Houston signed him four days later for an exception of only $2 million. It’s turned out to be a pretty good investment. Who knew?

Recent ramblings
— MyAJC: Mike Budenholzer’s leadership may continue to grow
— MyAJC: Hawks finally reach East’s promised land
— AJC: Short take: Pierce foiled, Teague finishes strong, Hawks move on
— MyAJC: Hawks in East finals would make Atlanta top 10
— MyAJC: Hawks in one win from higher elevation
— MyAJC: Hawks come through when it matters most
— AJC: Short takes: Horford comes through, Teague bows out
— MyAJC: Desperation shouldn’t be Hawks’ prime motivator
— MyAJC: Brady, Patriots got what they deserved
— AJC: Another lesson for Brady, Patriots: Don’t cheat, don’t lie
— MyAJC: Jalen Collins determined to make Falcons’ pick look good
— AJC: Wall’s injury shifts odds in Hawks’ favor for game, series
— MyAJC: Braves’ McDowell trying to repair some damaged egos
— AJC: Brady’s agent suggests ‘sting operation’ by NFL, Colts. Really?
— AJC: Pats, Brady clearly cheated and Bob Kraft is in denial
— MyAJC: Hawks survive but they didn’t make it easy

 

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Smoove is a selfish underwhelming tool. He'll get run out of Houston soon as well.

BasketballTopFan
BasketballTopFan

Pete Smith must be proud of his son Josh !!!


Back in the day Pete was a great basketball player who once tried out for the Hawks.


I use to play pick-up games against him at Ben Hill gymnasium in southwest Atlanta.


An Atlanta Hawk versus Houston Rockets NBA Finals match-up would be GREAT.


Atlanta native Dwight Howard and Josh Smith coming home to play the Atlanta Hawks.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

And neither the Hawks nor J-Smoove will be in the NBA Finals.  Enjoy the ride, but it's nearly over, because the Hawks are TOAST!

MikeS777
MikeS777

The question now is what in the world do the Clippers do?  They are maxed out with a team that seems to fall just short. They have to make a decision on DeAndre Jordan this summer.  They just don't have any cap room to play with in order to sign more help.

As good a defender as Jordan is, they may need to let him go somewhere else.  I'm not a huge fan of a "Big 3" that includes a guy who really is not a scoring option and can't hit free throws on top of that.  To me that's a "Big 2.5", so I'm not sure the Clips are best served paying Jordan the money he's going to want.

Also, the Clippers have too many jump shooters.  They need more people who can get to the basket and create a shot inside the arc.  Having both Reddick and Crawford is a bit redundant.  If they can I'd get rid of Crawford since he's 35 years old.

I think they can buy out Crawford's contract for $1 million, then let Jordan sign elsewhere.   That would give them a lot of cap flexibility to improve the team around Griffin and Paul.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

I don't know if booing helps or hurts but it seems to me that the last time he and Houston were here it spurred him to unbelievable heights...made a bunch of threes and almost, single-handedly, pulled the game out for the Rockets. Regardless of what he's doing now, I'll forever remember when he and Dwight Howard were graduating seniors and participating in an Adidas (I think) sponsored clinic/showcase in Knoxville. They both were 'featured' in a video that was shot chronicling the event...long story short, Smith came off as a fame-hungry, underperforming, petulant punk...while Howard was named the MVP of the event and a true talent to be reckoned with in the future. Of course Atlanta just had to have Smith who proved to be exactly what he was at the Knoxville gig...an under-performing, petulant punk that thought he was better than than he actually was...and is.

MikeS777
MikeS777

I'd keep Josh if he only cost the Hawks $2-3 million.  Stick him in a rotation with Milsap and Horford off the bench.  Of course, he wasn't going to come near that cheap.  The only way the Rockets got him that cheap is Detroit waived him and is still having to pay the rest of the 4 year, $50+ million contract they gave him.

Funny thing is, Detroit waiving him might be the best thing that ever happened to Josh.  Detroit still has to pay him all that money, for him to go to Houston and play on a team that now has a shot at the NBA finals.  He's improved his stock as well, and might get another good contract this summer.  His deal in Houston is just for this season I think.

JJ would have been an even better fit I think for coach Bud, but not at max contract money.

The Hawks didn't screw up by bringing Josh Smith and JJ to the team.  They screwed up by paying them far too much money.  They had to get rid of them just to get the financial flexibility to try to improve the team.

MikeS777
MikeS777

The problem with Josh and the Hawks is they tried to make him a #1 or #2 option.  The same could be said about Detroit.  He's not a top option, and probably never will be.  On Houston, he is at best the #4 option.  In that game 7 win yesterday, James Harden had 31 pts, Trevor Ariza had 22, Dwight Howard had 16, and Corey Brewer had 11 off the bench.  Houston also has Jason Terry.

Houston is just a much more talented team than Atlanta was when Josh and JJ were here.  Josh doesn't have to try to do to much there.  He can just blend in and be whatever the team needs.  It's a team built around James Harden and Dwight Howard.

creative
creative

Its pretty straight forward.  he's a role player not the number 1 option.  He is a good role player.  It seems that he has excepted that.  It looks as if he is maturing.  I would like to see him succeed as he he ATL.  

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

I for one am cheering for JSmoove! He did all he could while he was here to help the Hawks get over the hump! He provided some great highlights and some even greater low lights! He never got into trouble, played hard and tried his best to win! Go get em Josh! Good luck in the WCF! But if we happen to see you in the Championship...it is all about the Hawks and staying true to our home team!

afx
afx

@AnsweredTHIS  really! do you remember how he embarrassed Hawks when all world watched playoff and prima donna JSmoove sabotaged in transition defense, even always cool coach - commentator Brown got outraged on ESPN. go Hawks! 

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

@afx @AnsweredTHIS 


If someone picked a few things out of my career that I was not proud of and showcased it for the world to see, I would look pretty bad also.  Notice I said that he had "some even greater low lights"?  Does not mean I wont cheer for Josh, and all that he is about.  IMO he is a good player that did not fit the system here but gave all he had.  Glad he is no longer a Hawk, but when he was here, glad he was a Hawk....until he shoot those three.  Like I said up above, go Josh, you hometown born you got a fan here until you come back to the ATL!

ATLBrown
ATLBrown

JSmoove is a very good talent, but not meant to take the helm of a team.  He's succeeding with the Rockets as a role player, and he probably could've thrived under Coach Bud's system - also as a role player.  But he was already established here as one of our two stars, and the Hawks would have to overpay him to re-sign him - which Ferry obviously knew.


I don't have any hate for the guy - I'm glad he's found himself in a better place after Detroit, and also glad that it's not with Atlanta.  I wouldn't boo him - no need for it.

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

The guy can still play. It takes a great coach to harness his talent. Coach Bud may have been able to fix him.

Peachs
Peachs

You tell me which is the most unbelievable, I don't think anyone has missed a train as bad as local observers on the Hawks since British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain predicted peace in our times.  Obviously Ferry made the right choice, got rid of Josh but the local press cloister themselves in bomb shelters and write about non events while the biggest story in Atlanta sports history is taking place far from Houston and a forgotten troublemaker.  No wonder we have goat roping for sports teams in this town, some paranoid general manager buys into this nonsense to get peace from the press and finds too late these guys are just there for the free beer.  They didn't even know a game was going on. 

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

Sometimes it's the coaches ability to get the most out of a player. Also his friend Howard didn't hurt josh's transitioning to the Rockets. Plus winning breeds a positive attitude-- coupled with the fact that Smith still has talent. So to me it's not so surprising that he's finally found a good fit.

tyger
tyger

Its called Upside...


Josh never went to college...

Drafted straight outta high school...

Uber-talented, didn't benefit fr. college coaching...


Yet, contributed mightily for Hawks...

Snubbed for Allstar team twice...

Put the HI- in highlight factory...


Detroit just not good fit fr. beginning...

Had Monroe + Drummond at same position...

See where Pistons are right now...gone fishing...


McHale Hall of Famer that garners respect...

Knows how to relate to players...bring out best...

Reaping benefit of not just Smith...but Brewer too...

Not to mention D.Howard...known petulant...see Lakers


in short...Rockets stacked.




creative
creative

@FrankieB Why is anything a story?  We all get it.  You don't like him.  

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

Josh is succeeding for the same reason the Hawks are succeeding -- he gets to be in a system that doesn't ask more from him than he is capable of providing. That's a luxury he never had as a Hawk. 

Okeetee
Okeetee

Yeah, "Houston vs Houston" is the slop we get on the free site....and they want to charge us for the premium AJC and I'll bet it's as bad if not worse than the free stuff!  Josh Smith is a loser and a chump who will be exposed as such big time by the Warriors in the conference finals out West.  

Kynik
Kynik

I'll always be a fan of Josh Smith, even though the Hawks were going nowhere with him on the roster. The guy plays hard and has terrific athleticism, even though his decision-making leaves A LOT to be desired. That said, 7 of 14 from three-point range is an anomaly, not a corner turned. At this stage in his career, he is who he is: a hyper-athletic 4 with poor shot selection.


But when he's not asked to carry the load, he's much more effective off the bench. I'm glad he's found success in his own way. But if Houston and the Hawks meet in the finals, I reserve the right to boo the heck out of him every time he touches the ball!

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

Josh is just riding on coat tails of other players, Hawks play as a team something Josh never will learn. Go Hawks

syrupmaker
syrupmaker

Good for Josh!!  Detroit is/was a dumpster fire!! Let's go Hawks!!!

Deanna Dennis
Deanna Dennis

I laughed when somebody on one of the NBA studio shows talked about what a great passer Josh is. Did he ever MAKE a pass in Atlanta? :D

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

@Deanna Dennis Did you ever watch Hawks games when he was here? As bad as he is at shooting, he would have been out of the league by now (or at least buried on someone's bench) if he couldn't pass. 

frootbooty
frootbooty

This article was written by a fool who apparently got all his information by Googling "Josh Smith," instead of watching basketball.

moboman
moboman

Im betting on Houston in their series vs Houston.  How can I lose?

NATIVE SON
NATIVE SON

  I agree with what someone else stated earlier about Josh, and him being asked to be more than he  was. That being said, he helped win more games than he was to blame for the losses. I do admit that he was the cause for some doozies though. I still like him, as many fans still do. He was great to watch, filled the stat sheet in 4, or 5 categories most nights.

    I blame the Hawks org. for not getting a coach that developed the rookies. ( Woody ruined A.C. Laws career, and was about to ruin Teague's ) A true center that would have solidified the pieces that they had. Josh slashing to the hole, Al with the mid-range, Joe from deep. What could have been ... wasn't.

     An aside; Chris Paul has never made it out of the second round, and Josh Smith had something to do with that.

ImaNitwit
ImaNitwit

Silly to boo another person. Makes the person doing the booing look like a fool.

khd713
khd713

Houston against Houston should be an interesting series, especially with Houston being the underdog and Houston being the favorite. If I had to pick, I think I'd go with Houston.


Good on Smoove if he's finally putting his immense basketball skills to use. He's the total package, and it would have been amazing to watch him develop as a back-to-the-basket player, but, alas, he had other ideas. He simply isn't coachable, and it's only a matter of time before the Rockets discover the same thing about him that everyone else has. But, in the meantime, it will be good to watch him play at least one more series this year when everything is clicking for him.