You’ve all heard the saying that a team takes on the identity of its head coach. Well, sometimes the guys out on the court also take on the identity of their best player.
The Atlanta Hawks have come back down to earth a bit recently, losing 5 of 6 games heading into Monday night’s debacle in Chicago (I’m not gonna talk about it). Nevertheless, their 21-15 record was the same as last year’s after 36 games.
Last season this team played isolation basketball, taking on the DNA of their best player Joe Johnson. It was a predictable offense that got bogged down in the playoffs against better defense.
This season, ’Iso Joe’ (and his contract) are in Brooklyn. Josh Smith is now Atlanta’s best player and it’s no coincidence that the ‘Highlight Factory’ features more ball movement than ever before. Atlanta’s versatility is a reflection of Smith, who plays anywhere from SF to C on any given night.
Recently on NBATV, Smith spoke about what’s different this year. "We’ve been playing very unselfish…we just been playing together. You never know where that offense is gonna come from, everybody is scoring the basketball."
In the past people have gotten on Smith for his questionable three-point attempts. Well, don’t get it twisted, Josh is a team guy in every sense. He fills almost every column in the boxscore and, finally, his teammates are taking on his personality.
That personality also includes the defensive end, where Josh is the undisputed leader. But it hasn’t always been that way for Smith…."Early on my career I did things straight off athleticism. Now I’m getting older I use my feet more. It’s all about timing and making the right decisions."
When GM Danny Ferry moved Johnson last summer, it was for financial reasons and with the future in mind. As a result, many expected this team to take a step back in 2012-13.
But, thanks to the example set by their new franchise player Josh Smith (in a contract year), this group is actually a better team in the short-term as well.
The key to continuing this good play in 2012-13?
"Keep playing unselfish, keep playing together, keep playing confident…" Smith says.