Josh Smith was snubbed again for selection into the NBA All-Star Game. Don't get it twisted, while Josh will likely put on a brave face and soldier on, he desperately wants the validation an invitation to such a game provides.
There is a problem with Smith's logic -- the respect he seeks lies in a place he may never break through to -- NBA coaches.
Among fans, pundits and his peers, everyone knows Smith's value. Yes, blogs like ours know the warts in Smith's game all too well also, but we're well aware and have documented of all the goodness Smith provides and has provided this season, especially since the loss of Al Horford.
Smith's well documented proclivity to shooting jump shots is maybe the most over-reported item on the Hawks nationally. That folks, which surely include opposing coaches, know this and see him still shoot them implies a level of stubbornness on Smith's behalf and his reticence to change that aspect of his game bears the focus of observers notes rather than the dozen or so other things on the court that Smith does the right way.
This, combined with the annually bottom 10 in the NBA pace the Hawks play which suppresses Smith's averages to the non-advanced statistical mind, is what has kept Smith out of the running for a spot the last three seasons, where Smith has been essentially the same player productivity and habit wise.
Smith's case is not unique this year -- he is one of many who could claim foul in the East, a list that includes Ryan Anderson, Carlos Boozer, Greg Monroe, Tyson Chandler, Louis Williams, Brandon Jennings and Cleveland rookie sensation Kyrie Irving. That the coaches excluded exciting players like Smith and Irving surely will be open for criticism, but Smith didn't stand above any on that list, at best ranking among them.
Smith is likely to be a player branded for the things he doesn't do right rather than the things he does. The parts of his game that are right are enough to get him into this discussion, to place him fourth among Eastern power forwards this season, but coaches will likely always see the bad in Smith's game and choose to punish him or at best not reward him. It's not enough that Smith is at the level he is -- to get their vote, he must realize all he possibly could be.
The same is not asked of other All-Stars, an example is that of his 2-time All-Star teammate, Al Horford. Horford has plenty to improve on in his game, yet his hard-working, good-guy demeanor and lack of obvious flaunting of things he shouldn't do, according to all of us, means he doesn't have to score 100 percent on his skills test to get coaches approval like Smith does.
Every jump shot, every time he doesn't give the ball to the guard to run a fast break, every scowl is a mark in the coaches' ledger against him. It's not necessarily right that they do it that way, that they ask more from Josh than maybe they would Luol Deng, but it's the reality of the situation for Smith.
Play ball with the doing things their way or don't play ball in the All-Star game. For Josh Smith, the validation of his excellence on the court remains as far away as taking the next step up to differentiate himself from the pack, a goal that with every passing season maybe slipping further and further from his grasp.