Trade deadline Thursday has finally arrived and the clock is ticking on Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks. Although Wednesday came and went with a lot of chatter no deals seem imminent. Teams are interested in Smith but the Hawks have not found the type of deal they are looking for.
ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Hawks are still as motivated as ever to move Smith by the 3 p.m. deadline but also indicates they are struggling to find the type of return that they are looking for:
Yet sources stressed that the Hawks do remain eager to part with Smith and went into Thursday expecting to move him by day's end to the team offering the best deal that won't hurt their long-term financial flexibility. Atlanta, of course, is determined not to let any trade it makes Thursday affect its planned summer pursuit of Dwight Howard in free agency in July.
SI.com's Chris Mannix reports that the Hawks have been conflicted for weeks on whether or not to part with Smith but have lately centered on moving him due to his likely high salary demands:
For a while, the Hawks were conflicted about dealing Smith, an All-Star caliber power forward who has been a consistent 16-18 point, 8-10 rebound, 3-5 assist per game player for the last four seasons. A team source suggested there were strong feelings, as recently as the last few weeks, about finding ways to keep Smith as part of the team's core.
But the combination of Smith's likely contract demands this summer -- Smith publicly stated he felt he was a max player -- and his history of uneven behavior in Atlanta has the Hawks ready to move on, according to league sources familiar with the team's thinking. Atlanta GM Danny Ferry has shrewdly positioned his team to have cap flexibility this summer, and bringing back Smith for big dollars isn't in the plans. Yahoo! Sports reported that Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Phoenix are the frontrunners for Smith while two rival executives believe Boston and Dallas remain in the mix.
Yahoo Sports' Kelly Dwyer talks about why the Hawks shouldn't take on any long term salary in any deal for Smith:
On Atlanta's side, it's hard to fathom just why they would take in salary that moved beyond this season in order to garner some assets in preparation for Smith's potential free agent departure. Should the team decline DeShawn Stevenson's option for next season, the Hawks are set to owe under $20 million in salary next season as it heads into restricted free agency negotiations with point guard Jeff Teague and banger Ivan Johnson. If the team signs each player to reasonable rates and negotiations don't drag on, the Hawks could have around $30 million in cap space to work with this summer.
AJC columnist Jeff Schultz writes that Danny Ferry is still cleaning up the mess left from the Billy Knight and Rick Sund regimes in Atlanta:
This is Year 1 for Ferry, not years 4, 7 or 12. He has credibility and he has a plan. There's still reason to believe in that plan. Smith conceivably could still be a part of that plan, but there's no reason to believe he wants to re-sign here -- and, unfortunately, that was the case two years ago, when the Hawks could've garnered more for him in trade.
Ferry likes Smith. If that wasn't the case, he would've traded him before the season. He got Brooklyn to take Johnson, you think he couldn't get someone to take Smith? But he wanted to watch for a season. The Johnson trade brought salary-cap relief, so if Ferry decided to pursue to re-signing Smith, he now could.
Ben Golliver of The Point Forward runs down three of the popular trade rumors involving Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Phoenix. The Suns deal has been denied by Phoenix media outlets but of all the deals out there I personally would rather have Suns center Marcin Gortat if the Hawks must take on salary for next season.
Gortat is a solid starting-caliber center on a reasonable contract that ends after the 2013-14 season. He would be immensely flippable in a future deal and he's the best single piece included in these scenarios. His $7.7 million salary next year would cut into the Hawks' flexibility, but he's a liquid asset. Phoenix has an extra first-round pick this year that they could include to sweeten a package and space under the cap to make a trade easier for salary matching purposes.
Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew told NBA.com that through all of the rumors, Josh Smith has handled everything as professionally as could be expected.
"With all the talk that's been going on, it can be a distraction but he has shown no signs of it distracting him," Drew said. "He's been totally focused with everything that we've done. He's handled himself in a very professional manner. I didn't expect anything different.
"I know during this time it can be a little unsettling for any player who has his name tossed around as far as trades, but he's been a total professional."