Confession: I really love Josh Smith.
On the inside of the locker room you have to respect that he works hard to remember everybody who regularly covers the team.
He is productive, efficient, a high-PER player. He is a very good help defender and with Al Horford they comprise one of the most solid, formidable defensive front lines, despite neither being near seven feet tall.
You also have to respect that every single offseason, this guy has worked hard to improve himself on the court in some way. One season it was working with Hakeem on his post game. The next it was a significant weight loss in anticipation of playing more small forward, so he could keep up defensively.
He wants to win. He wants the ATLANTA HAWKS to win. Does anyone who is looking from the outside -- heck, even the inside of Atlanta understand how radical that thought is? NOBODY cares about the Hawks from the outside and here Josh Smith is, a local guy, a guy who listened to Steve Holman, THE voice of the Hawks, and understands this franchise -- and loves this franchise.
He believes in himself. He believes that he can make those ridiculously inefficient jump shots. He believes in his talent, his recovery speed and in his teammates. He thinks he can make the right decision leading the break. He wants to get the ball to his teammates in transition. Again, he wants to win, badly -- and he wants to be in the middle of it.
On the other side though, there is the obvious. Despite his internal fire burning, sometimes his lack of fundamental understanding of the game hurts him and prevents what he wants most -- Atlanta victories.
There is the aforementioned shot selection. The lack of fundamental defensive rebounding positioning. The bad choices in transition. The sometimes wandering nature of his defense in both transition and the half court sets.
These are items that should have been straightened out a long time ago by either Mike Woodson or Larry Drew, but despite that and separate from who is to blame for these inefficiencies, there they are and they are a blight on what otherwise is a remarkable and stellar nine year career from an extremely talented AND productive player.
So here we are: You love the passion, the care, the talent, the production, the heart and the desire to make the Hawks a winner. You don't love the flaws, already previously listed, and the damage those flaws can produce on a nightly basis.
And so here the crossroads. He is a free agent at the end of the year. He might not sign with the Hawks, but probably will given the financial advantage and the attachment to the franchise above.
My heart wants Josh to be a lifetime Atlanta Hawk for all the good things he provides but it's hard to reconcile the on-the-court impact the negatives have, too.
It's the kind of franchise-altering choice that Danny Ferry has to make. And he may make it sooner than later, if a deal offers itself up in the form of a mid-season trade. It's a tough call -- I am glad Ferry has it.
Because what do I, an Atlanta Hawks fan, a Josh Smith fan, want to have happen? Would the team truly be better off with Smith playing elsewhere? Would Smith be better for it with a new start in a new location? Would a strong head coach help or damage Josh's psyche? Could these things that burn be changed or after nine seasons we know who Josh is and are we willing to take the bad with the considerable good?
I don't know. I am torn. I have no clarity. I am lost.