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SLAM Magazine: Josh Smith Interview, Is He Underrated?

"I think I'm definitely underrated" Josh Smith in this month's SLAM Magazine

No other Atlanta Hawks player is more of a lightning rod for universal praise and criticism than Josh Smith. No other player on the roster has the individual athletic talent that Smith possesses. It is his decision making and mercurial personality that is most often called into question. It is also those latter two qualities that have seemed to keep him off the NBA's All Star team for the last two seasons. 

In this month's SLAM Magazine, Demarco Williams talks Josh Smith at length including his many positives as well as the few negatives that always tends to pull him down. Is Josh Smith under appreciated in his home town? Just this week when Larry Drew mentioned lineup changes or a roster shaking trade, Josh Smith's name quickly came up. So I beg the question, is there another player in the league that can be supremely loved one night and hated the next by his home team anymore than Josh Smith?

I don't have the answer but do have a theory for the cause. I am not sure there are many other players that can impact a team's fortunes both positively and negatively than Atlanta's own Josh Smith.  We have seen the flashes of brilliance over the course of his seven seasons and at the same time seen the regressions. No one questions Smith's work ethic and it has been on full display this season in what might be his best statistical year yet. After shooting a paltry 61% from the free throw line last season, Smith is shooting nearly 74% this season. That is a remarkable improvement that doesn't get a whole lot of mention. 

It is his shooting from places other than the charity stripe that get the most mention. Smith started this season shooting the perimeter jumper better than he had previously in his career. The fear was that he would fall in love with it failing to suppress the temptation when the situation called taking the ball inside. The numbers show that he shooting has improved, but the also show that he is much more effective inside the paint.

Williams talks with Smith about his emotions and his on court interactions with officials and sometimes even his own coaches. Smith sort of dismisses that talk with Williams and this in my opinion sums up the next great step Josh Smith has to take on his way to becoming a franchise type of player.

"I don't mess up my game [with emotion]," Smith claims. " I have grown as a player, and I'm getting better every year. Wearing my heart on my sleeve doesn't affect my game at all. I kind of think it gets everybody involved when they see how passionate I am about the game."

When things are going well I agree with the above statement 100%. The same thing doesn't hold true when things are going bad however. It is at that point that the bad shots, bad body language, and poor effort seem to become much more of the norm. Smith may not want to admit it but we have seen his emotions take him out of a game on more than one equation. That is still his biggest hurdle that he has yet to overcome. It is easy to forget that he is just 25 years old but even he calls himself a veteran now. The transition is to be made into making veteran decisions. 

As I said earlier you have to be careful with what you wish for in terms of Josh Smith. I don't think any other Hawks player directly impacts the game more than Smith both good and bad. It is easy to become frustrated watching him because his talents are so easily visible. Where he is most underrated is in his importance to the Hawks defensively. His presence alone changes the way teams attack the Hawks and that is very easy to see when he is on the bench. After all only someone with supreme talent could be labeled both the solution and the problem to a question. 

To read the entire Smith interview pick up the April edition of SLAM magazine with Kobe Bryant on the cover at news stands now.