Treading water in Smith talks
Agent complains Hawks not pushing to extend young star
By SEKOU SMITH
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/16/07
Salt Lake City — The NBA's free-agent signing period is almost a week old and the Hawks are not close to signing Josh Smith to a long-term contract extension, one of his agents confirmed Sunday.
The Hawks have until Oct. 31 to agree to terms with Smith, and fellow fourth-year swingman Josh Childress, or table the discussion until next summer, when both players would become restricted free agents.
Smith, an Atlanta native and the team's second-leading scorer, made clear his desire to stay with the franchise through whatever tumult remains in the ongoing ownership dispute. But it's unclear as to whether the Hawks have reciprocated that feeling.
"With the uncertainty surrounding the organization you would think that they would want to sign a player who has made it clear to them that he wants to be here [in Atlanta] and shown that he wants to improve as a player," said Wallace Prather, one of Smith's agents. "And it's very disappointing that they're not making it a priority."
With Smith entering the fourth-year option of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.6 million, the Hawks still have several months to get a deal done.
If they can't, they would have to start the process all over again next summer. And if Smith continues to progress the way he has over his first three NBA seasons — his workouts this summer include one-on-one sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon and Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy — the cost of re-signing him could rise considerably.
Hawks general manager Billy Knight said the organization is committed to both players and is having ongoing conversations with representatives for both Smith and Childress.
But he also said that he wasn't anticipating "anything" and would "wait and see how things go" during the negotiation process rather than comment on the details.
"It's the normal situation," Knight said, "players wanting more than the team is willing to pay. So we'll see how things go [over the summer]. But we certainly like both players and we'd like to keep both players."
It'll cost the Hawks.
Smith could command upward of five years and $50 million in a new deal.
With All-Star guard Joe Johnson injured for the final six weeks last season, Smith took over the role of go-to-guy and excelled.
He was one of just two players in the league last year — Phoenix All-Star Shawn Marion was the other — to average better than 16 points (16.4) while also ranking among the top 20 in rebounds (8.6), blocks (2.9) and steals (1.4).
Smith also averaged 3.3 assists and finished second to Marcus Camby for the league lead in blocks. He notched his 500th career block on March 3 against New York, becoming the youngest player in NBA history (21 years, 88 days) to reach that milestone.
He was suspended for two games by the team after a late-season run-in with coach Mike Woodson in Philadelphia.
But even after that Smith reiterated his desire to help lift his hometown team into the playoffs.
"My motivation is to help put my city and the Atlanta Hawks on the map. That's it," the former McEachern High star said. "I'm from Atlanta and I love my city, my family and the people here. And we're at a great point in time, if not this year then next year, when we're going to be a factor. It's going to be our time."
With so many forwards, it appears the Hawks aren't as attached to Josh as we thought. Maybe we could swing a deal to acquire him? He'd be absolutely perfect in Nellie-ball. What would you give to acquire him?