Josh Smith Offer Matched by Hawks and Real Reason Grizzlies Went after Him

Joe WillettSenior Writer IAugust 9, 2008

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Josh Smith was rumored to have signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for a five-year, $58 million deal as the Grizzlies attempted to help make themselves into a contender.

However, the Atlanta Hawks quickly matched the offer sent out by the Grizzlies to retain the 2004 first round draft pick.

"Tonight, the Hawks organization received an offer sheet from the Memphis Grizzlies for Josh Smith," Atlanta general manager Rick Sund said in a statement. "We are happy to announce that we will match their offer sheet."

So now Smith, the biggest free agent currently, is off the market, which leaves just Ben Gordon as the last big name remaining.

The Hawks haven't been very active this offseason, only losing Josh Childress to the Olympiakos of Greece in a big publicity hit.  This team is not as good as the team that took the Celtics to seven games in the first round of last year's playoffs.

Although Smith hasn't been spectacular yet, he is still among the 40 most efficient NBA players, ahead of notable free agents Andre Igoudola, Monte Ellis, Luol Deng, and Emeka Okafor.

The Hawks have a good starting lineup, with Smith and Al Horford adding to the veteran leadership of Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson.

Smith and Horford are likely to improve from last season. Still, Bibby and Johnson are getting older and losing Childress hurts their depth, which isn't good for games later in the season or games that need more than 48 minutes.

As for Memphis, this was anything but an attempt to help their team on the court, and more an attempt to help their appearance to the public.

"If you're getting criticized for being cheap and doing nothing this at least counts for something. Now Mike Heisley and [GM] Chris [Wallace] can beat back skeptics who question your commitment to the long-term health of the team. It happens all the time," said one NBA GM.

According to ESPN, the Grizzlies knew that Smith wouldn't sign, and although they were the only team with significant cap space, they have made no moves this offseason.

It looks like the Grizzlies are going to wait until 2009 to upgrade their team.  The free agent class then is expected to be a little stronger.  Or they could wait until 2010 and make a move for LeBron James, but that seems unlikely.

I'm Joe W.

Joe also writes for, a Chicago Cubs blog, and, a basketball fan's site.