A little late posting this as I was trying not to be both self-congratulatory and suicidal after Game 5.
Gregg Doyel looks at Josh Smith and determines a couple of things:
1. Josh Smith is supremely talented.
2. He's throwing his potential away, one jump shot at a time.
To ardent Bird Watchers, this is every bit as current news as the franchise moving from St. Louis to Atlanta. Translation: Duh.
But chalk Doyel up as yet another national voice that has joined the legion of Hawks fans in pleading with Smith to ditch the Jeff Malone act and be more Karl Malone.
Bet it hit rim?:
He should be soaring to greatness, but he long ago attached a cinder block to his shoes, and everyone knows the cinder block in question. It's his perimeter shooting. For some reason Smith is intent on proving to someone, maybe just himself, that he can score from the outside. And given his insistence on shooting from out there, he can. It's a volume thing -- shoot enough from 18 feet, from 20 feet, even from beyond the 3-point arc, and a few shots will fall. That's the statistical lie that emboldens Smith to keep firing from the perimeter:
I don't miss every time.
Doyel actually considers Smith to be among the most talented players in the game and even puts him perhaps above Carmelo Anthony. But unlike some of the names on his list, it's another uber-talent, unfortunately, that Doyel compares Smith's career to:
Josh Smith is one of the nicest, one of the most infuriating, one of the most disappointing players in the NBA. That's a complicated combination, because tearing into Josh Smith doesn't come easy. He's a sweetheart of a guy, humble, helpful. You want others in the NBA to be like him, off the court.
On the court? You want nobody to be like him on the court. Because on it, he's maddening. He's frustrating. Watching Josh Smith now is like watching Vince Carter back when Carter was one of the most talented players in the world, but a guy who just didn't give a crap.
This story isn't about Vince Carter, which is too bad because I'd love to tear into that guy. Carter should have been a Hall of Famer, and maybe he will be in spite of himself -- in spite of his passionless, ring-less, pointless career. Well, his career wasn't entirely pointless. Vince Carter has managed to score 20,050 of them, but he should have done more than score a lot and win a little. He should have been an all-time great, not a more acrobatic World B. Free.
That's where Josh Smith is headed. He's headed toward Vince-ville. Not because he's a one-dimensional scorer like Vince Carter, but because he's an all-world talent who doesn't maximize his potential for greatness.
Ouch. Seriously, what's next, some side by side shots of Smith with Derrick Coleman?
But for all of our hand-wringing about Smith and his on-court decisions, what can be done about it? The choice is obviously Smith's and Doyel thinks he's found the origin of his misguided Dell Curry-esque dreams:
The problem is, nobody has ever told Smith he's a low-post player. When he was in high school and AAU ball, his coaches allowed him to play on the wing. He played on the same AAU team as Dwight Howard and Randolph Morris, so there really was no room for him in the lane. He hovered around the perimeter, going inside whenever he wanted to dunk on somebody, but staying outside whenever he wanted to prove to himself that he didn't miss every time.
When Smith chose Indiana, then-Hoosiers coach Mike Davis told me that Smith would revolutionize the wing position in college -- and maybe he was right, if by revolutionize the wing position he meant that Smith would be a wing who couldn't score outside of 10 feet. We never saw it, because Smith entered the 2004 NBA Draft out of high school and went 17th overall.
Finally, Doyel implores Smith to do what he actually does best, play inside and tells Smith that's what the best players in the league do:
The difference in those guys and Smith is that those guys know who they are. Stoudemire, Love and Griffin are low-post players. They don't pretend otherwise. They get the most out of their ability because they play where they should play.
Smith plays where he wants to play, and he wants to play on the wing. And he'll never have the Basketball Hall of Fame plaque to show for it.