Josh Smith is a 22-year-old power forward with four years of NBA experience, a record-setting pace for blocks, and enough highlight reel footage to start up his own multimedia empire, but ask the man himself what he really needs and discover nothing more than the feeling of being wanted.
On Friday afternoon Smith signed a five-year $58 million offer sheet with the Memphis Grizzlies, baiting his current Atlanta Hawks club to match the deserved market value or risk losing their second best performer in an improbable and highly successful playoff run last May.
With visions of Smith running the Memphis break alongside the likes of Grizzlies Rudy Gay and rookie O.J. Mayo, it didn’t take long for the Atlanta brass to soundly and confidently recommit.
It is, after all, not every day that you see a world class athlete anxious to build on a successful season with a team as historically unsuccessful as the Atlanta Hawks.
When Smith, alongside team scoring leader Joe Johnson and rookie Al Horford, forced the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics into a seventh and deciding game in their first-round playoff matchup last spring, it marked a triumph of proportions unlike any seen in recent Hawks memory.
Not coincidentally, it marked the official beginning of an Atlanta basketball era that you won’t want to miss.
Just days after news broke of his recent activity on the free agent market, the 6?9? Smith was nice enough to set time aside from his his hectic adidas Nations schedule (where he serves as the NBA mentor of the class of 2009 US team) in order to talk high school hoops, offer sheets and obviously, NBA Jam.
Austin Kent: First of all, Josh, let’s talk adidas and let’s talk high school basketball. What exactly is your role in Dallas this week?
Josh Smith: Well my role in Dallas it to just basically be a mentor to the kids and just help them. I see them making a lot of the same little errors in the game that I used to make, so I just try to talk to them and help them get better.
Kent: Have you always been an adidas guy?
Smith: Yeah, ever since I was 14.
Kent: Why is that?
Smith: My AAU team was sponsored by adidas and I wore them all the way up until now. Obviously you wear other shoes when you’re in high school, but for the most part it was all I used to wear.