Tifton Gazette

Local Sports

February 13, 2013

Atlanta Hawks could face big decision with Josh Smith

ATLANTA —  The Hawks could soon face a big decision with leading scorer Josh Smith, one of the most-discussed names in speculation leading up to the NBA trade deadline.

Smith, in his ninth season with his hometown Hawks, can become an unrestricted free agent after the season. That makes him a natural trade-deadline target, especially given general manager Danny Ferry's established willingness to part with big contracts.

Ferry, who traded Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams before the season, said Wednesday he's open to any opportunity that makes long-term sense for the team.

"We're in a unique situation right now with our current roster being competitive but also having potential cap space going forward," Ferry said. "Like most teams we're constantly evaluating ourselves and looking at the opportunities that may be out there to improve, whether that's through internal growth or externally through trades.

"If there's an opportunity that makes sense for the long-term interest of the Hawks, we'll certainly look into it. We'll definitely look into it."

Ferry wouldn't comment specifically on any talks with teams, including reports the Nets, Spurs and other teams have inquired about Smith.

The trade deadline is Feb. 21.

The Hawks are sixth in the Eastern Conference. Their postseason outlook took a hit when guard Lou Williams sustained a season-ending knee injury last month.

The 27-year-old Smith is known for his powerful left-handed dunks and defensive big plays with steals and blocked shots. He led the Hawks with his average of 17.1 points before Wednesday night's game at Orlando, and he was second to center Al Horford with 8.6 rebounds per game.

Smith set career highs with his averages of 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds last season.

If he is not traded, Smith could be difficult to re-sign. Though he has never been an All-Star, he could ask for a maximum contract. The Hawks could offer five years and about $94 million, while other teams could offer up to about $70 million for four years.

Smith's Atlanta-based agent, Wallace Prather, said the Hawks and Smith agreed there would be no contract talks until after the season.

"Management offered Josh an extension at the beginning of the year," Prather said. "That's the last that we spoke about Josh's future in Atlanta."

Smith's career has been filled with impressively balanced stat lines. He had 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists Monday night in a 105-101 win at Dallas.

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