Josh Smith Not Fazed By His Critics

Atlanta Hawks fans would probably be more at ease watching Jeff Teague jump off a 20-foot ladder into a shallow pool of water than watching Josh Smith catch a pass anywhere outside of 12 feet from the rim. Considering Smith only knocked down 28-of-109 3-point attempts (25.7 percent) last season, there is a reason to be concerned.

Frequenters of Philips Arena have not forgot either. In the Hawks home opener—a 109-102 loss to the Houston Rockets—Smith was met with a chorus of gasps when he got the ball on the 3-point line with literally no one near him.

Boos followed, as Smith was unable to knock down the wide-open shot.

Still, Smith seems unfazed by the naysayers and focused on making his jump shot better. This year, he will benefit from having a new set of accomplished shooting coaches — his teammates.

Smith has already spent time working with Kyle Korver, the man who holds the record for highest single season 3-point percentage in NBA history. Korver said he thinks, with a little direction and practice, Smith might be able to silence some of his critics.

“I think Josh has the ability to be a great shooter,” Korver said. “I’m just working with him on some small things.”

Korver said he is impressed by how fast Smith is picking his tips up.

“He is a quick learner,” he said. “You don’t ever want to do a total overhaul of a guy’s shot right before the season starts, but I think there are some things that he can focus on that will help out quite a bit.”

Continuing to launch up shots, is definitely not what most would recommend for Smith given his explosiveness and ability to score around the rim, but Korver said staying the course is just one of the ingredients to being a good shooter.

“He has the mentality of ‘I don’t care if I missed the last ten, I’m going to throw up the next one,’” said Korver. “That’s what good shooters have. You can knock that, or you can praise that. The bottom line is, he has the ability to be a very good shooter.”

Although Hawks head coach Larry Drew has criticized Smith’s shot selection in the past, he seems very confident in the abilities of the versatile big man.

“The beauty about Josh is Josh knows every position on the floor,” Drew said in an interview before the season. “I can play him at three and also at times I can move him to some two. We can use him in different ways in what we do.”

It may take a while for Smith to gain the trust of the Atlanta Hawks fans, but with a visibly improved shot stroke and the right mentality, he might be on his way.

Ferry Quick To Leave His Mark On Hawks

Danny Ferry has been in charge of the Atlanta Hawks for less than a month, and already he’s stamped his indelible mark on the team with two huge trades.

It started out like a fairly normal week for the Hawks.  Just a few days after the NBA draft, most fans and analysts were pontificating and arguing about whether or not Atlanta had gotten themselves any help with their draft picks.

Then it started.

A few whispers and rumblings, using words like “discussions” and “ongoing talks” in regards to Joe Johnson being traded to the Brooklyn Nets. Most figured it was just foolish gossip.  There was no way Atlanta was going to be able to convince any team to take on Johnson’s cap space eating contract.

And then in an interesting twist, Joe Johnson signed up for the social media photography service called Instagram, under the name “imstartinova2″.

Maybe the rumors and stories had some merit?

Apparently so, because before Monday was over the Hawks looked like a completely different team.

Ferry did what most said couldn’t be done and traded Joe Johnson to the Nets, and he didn’t end up with pie in the face while doing it.

Atlanta unloaded Johnson and his enormous contract to Brooklyn in exchange for the expiring contracts of Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro, Anthony Morrow, and Sean Williams, and get free-agent DeShawn Stevenson via a sign-and-trade. The Hawks will also get a lottery protected first round pick (via Houston).

The deal is set to be finalized on July 11 when the free-agent moratorium ends.

So the Hawks dump nearly $90 million they were going to have to pay Johnson over the next four years, and they get some players to look at, and a pick?

Score: Danny Ferry – 1, Doubters – 0

But the new Hawks GM wasn’t done yet.  No sooner had the Joe Johnson deal been solidified and writers filed their stories, Ferry pulled the trigger on another deal. The Hawks are sending seven-year veteran forward Marvin Williams to the Utah Jazz for point guard Devin Harris, who is in the final year of his contract.

Williams was the number two overall draft pick in 2005, and has spent his entire NBA career with the Hawks, averaging 11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists.  He was due to be paid $8.3 million in 2012-13 and $7.5 million in 2013-14.

In return, Atlanta gets a dynamic point guard with starting experience for at least one season, and who will provide a great complimentary teammate for the Hawks’ incumbent point guard Jeff Teague.

Score: Danny Ferry – 2, Doubters – 0

When you take in to account the trades of Johnson and Williams, and add in the fact that Atlanta had nine unrestricted free agents on the team, you could be looking at nearly a completely different roster by the time training camp rolls around.

But the question of what will happen with star forward Josh Smith still remains.  Smith’s future will likely depend on how his meetings with Ferry go, and if he gives a definitive indication on whether he plans to re-sign after this season or go elsewhere.

If Smith tells Ferry that his plan is to leave Atlanta after his contract expires this season, Hawks fans may see yet another big deal go down.

Garnett Helps Celtics Eliminate Hawks

After Game 2 of Boston’s opening round series against Atlanta, Kevin Garnett said the Celtics were “all grit and balls.”

28 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and three steals later, Kevin Garnett carried the Celtics to an 83-80 series clinching victory over the Hawks in Game 6. The Big Ticket’s impact on this series isn’t hard to grasp. Simply put, he was vintage KG. With Garnett on the floor the Celtics were +73. When he was sitting on the pine -42.

One question remains though: With so many game changing injuries having already occurred in the NBA, can a veteran Celtics team stay together for one last title run? The Celtics weaknesses were pretty glaring in this series. They can’t rebound, they lack elite athleticism, they struggle to score for stretches and they’re old.

Despite all of the above, when the Green Team plays at their peak they can be the best team in basketball. After the All Star break the C’s went 26 -12 down the stretch—proving they still had gas in the tank.

In the next round they will play the upstart Philadelphia 76ers and rekindle an old school playoff rivalry. In two different affairs in “The City of Brotherly Love,” the C’s were not feeling any love.

In their first face-off, former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner had the best game of his young NBA career. Pouring in 26 points and grabbing nine boards. Along with Turner’s effort the Green Team failed to hit the glass and got out rebounded by 19.

In the second game the Celtics started out strong, before a scary injury derailed their momentum. Late in the first half swingman Mickel Pietrus fell awkwardly before being carted off on a stretcher. His injury seemed serious at the time after he was spitting up blood on the court and the Celtics could not rebound from what was a gruesome sight.

However, in their last match-up of the season the Celtics got the 76ers number. With Avery Bradley scoring 18 points and Rondo dishing out 15 assists the Celtics cruised to a double-digit home victory.

The series will not be an easy one for either side. However, if the Celtics can stay healthy, they should win this series in seven.

Hawks Narrowly Avoid Elimination

Every year during the NBA playoffs, there comes a moment where a team has a choice to lay down and allow their opponents to get some rest before inevitably heading to the next round, or choose to keep fighting in hopes of pulling off an improbable comeback.

Faced with a “win or stay home” scenario, the Atlanta Hawks nearly handed the Boston Celtics a win but hung in to earn a 87-86 victory in Atlanta.

After a successful but tough season, Hawks coach Larry Drew felt that his team was ready for the challenge of fighting out there way out of a 3-1 hole.

“I think we have had a really good season up until this point. We have overcame a lot of adversity through the course of the season,” Drew said before the game. “This team that has shown that they can take the challenge, especially when you talk about dealing with adversity and tough times.”

The Hawks definitely did their part to keep things interesting, as they made several runs but the Celtics responded at the end of every quarter, making it a back-and-forth battle all the way until the final possession.

After being down as much as ten in the second quarter, the Hawks made a furious run to close the half, making four consecutive three pointers, including two from Marvin Williams. In most cases this would leave a team with a bit of momentum going into the second half. However, a couple of free throw makes and a big dunk from Celtic big man Brandon Bass kept the Hawks from running away. To make things worse, Rajon Rondo drilled a three at the buzzer to send the teams to the Locker-room tied at 40.

In the third quarter, the Hawks played some of the best basketball they’ve played all series. Sparked by a fiery Al Horford who was playing in his first game in Philips arena since undergoing season ending surgery back in January, the Hawks soared to a 12-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the third. Then Rondo struck again.

Rondo closed out the quarter with six points, one assist, one steal and one rebound in the last two minutes and 42 seconds of the third to cut the lead to two.

In the final period the Hawks got the lead back up to seven, but the Celtics crept their way back getting the lead down to one with 10 seconds left to play.

Then Rondo struck. Again.

A Josh Smith inbound bounce pass was intercepted by Rondo giving the Celtics one last crack at closing the series in Atlanta. Luckily for the Hawks, the Celtics seemed so caught off guard by Smith’s blunder that they were unable to get off a good shot.

With the series heading back to Boston for Game 6, the Hawks will once again have their backs against the wall as they go against a pesky Rondo, a hot Paul Pierce and bustling away crowd.

Pierce, Celtics Steal One In Atlanta

After jumping out to a sizable lead early and weathering the storm late to beat the Boston Celtics in game one of their Eastern Conference matchup, the Atlanta Hawks found themselves in trap game heading into the second game of the series Tuesday night.

The Hawks had a lot of things in their favor. Ray Allen has yet to return to action for the Celtics, as he has been plagued with an ailing ankle. Rajon Rondo was forced to sit Tuesday’s contest out because of the infamous bump heard ‘round the world. To top things off, the Hawks again had home court advantage.

Perhaps the most interesting thing of it all is that the Hawks knew exactly what they were getting into.

“We can’t come out thinking that [with] no Rondo that it’s going to be an easy game,” Larry Drew said before the game. “We have to bring our A-game, because our B-game isn’t going to get it done. “

But pre-game coach preachiness was not enough to prevent Atlanta from suffering one of the most embarrassing collapses they have had all season to the tune of an 87-80 loss.

One would think the team missing their starting point guard would be the one to struggle offensively, but with the game on the line, a stellar performance from Paul Pierce and tough Celtics defense left the Hawks looking dazed and confused.

After struggling the entirety of Game 1, Pierce looked like a man on a mission. The 2008 Finals MVP scorched the Hawks for game-highs 36 points and 14 rebounds. In the fourth quarter Pierce knocked down 5-of-7 from the field for 13 points. Atlanta struggled connecting on just 4-of-19 attempts from the field and only managed to outscore Pierce by one.

“The only way we were going to win the game is if Paul played like that,” Doc Rivers said during the postgame press conference. “He knew that. So did [the Hawks], yet he still did it. It just tells you how special he is.”

Avery Bradley, who told HOOPSADDICT.com before the game that he had knocked of his playoff jitters in game one, did a solid job filling for Rondo. The second-year guard scored 14 points while shooting 50 percent from the field. He also contributed on defense with three blocks and three steals.

On Friday, the series shifts to Boston with a completely different tone. The Celtics now have home court advantage, Rondo is set to return from his suspension, and the Hawks may have to go without Josh Smith who left Tuesday night’s game early with a sprained knee. In order for the Hawks to get back in this series Atlanta will have to take a page out of the Celtics book and overcome some major adversity.

“I told our players, ‘this is what playoff basketball is all about,’” Drew said. “It will be a chess match. It’s about adjustments. It’s about when you are on the other end of the stick—really seeing what you are made of.”