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Josh Smith ready to experience free agency

Friday's Game 6 loss could have been the last time that Josh Smith wears an Atlanta Hawks uniform.

Paul Abell

For Josh Smith, Friday's Game 6 loss could have been the final act in his career as a player for the Atlanta Hawks. Smith just completed his ninth season in the NBA all while playing for his hometown team but as he enters unrestricted free agency he may have reached the end of the line. When asked after Game 6 if he wanted to return to Atlanta this was his reply:

"The only thing I know is I want to be able to experience free agency. I want to explore my options and see what's out there. I don't have any certain idea what's going to happen."

2013 was somewhat of a tumultuous season for Smith in Atlanta. Most looked for him to emerge as the unquestioned leader of the Hawks in the wake of the Joe Johnson trade to Brooklyn. This was Smith's opportunity to show the NBA and more specifically new general manager Danny Ferry that Smith was the player that the Atlanta Hawks could not do without.

Things didn't exactly work out that way.

Smith turned in a good season but certainly not his best. His averages of 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds were down from the season before. He shot a career worst 52 percent from the free throw line as questions about his shot selection continued to swirl. The season also included a one-game suspension for conduct detrimental because of an incident in practice and a rare quote talking about his upcoming free agency where Smith indicated that hethought of himself as a max player.

Smith did do a good job this season of not letting his free agent status become that much of a distraction. He took everything in stride as rumors swirled at the trade deadline. He later admitted that everything kind of hit him as he walked off the Philips Arena court following the Game 6 loss:

"As I walked off the court, everything just sort of hit me. Just the uncertainty of what the future holds. Just thinking about all of the relationships I've had here and the people who've crossed my path since I've been here. I just ... I just don't know."

If Smith doesn't return then he will go down as statistically one of the greatest Hawks players ever. However, there will always be questions as to whether or not he ever fully reached his potential.