Wednesday , Apr , 11 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Hawks’ Smith drops the ball

(Sports Network) – When one leader disappears or moves on, another usually
quickly takes its place.

Head coaches can only lead so far from the bench. Every team needs someone on
the floor to look to, to take direction from. For the Atlanta Hawks, that
person is usually Joe Johnson.

Johnson, though, is sidelined with a bruised right calf and it is unknown if
and when he can return. With Atlanta’s season lost — the club is dead last in
the Southeast Division — it doesn’t make much sense for Johnson to rush back
anyway.

But in his absence, somebody had to step up and take charge. For a while, that
person was Josh Smith. But then Smith went and dropped the leadership ball.

Last Sunday against Philadelphia, Smith and head coach Mike Woodson got into a
heated, expletive-filled argument late in the game. Smith was eventually sent
to the locker room in what ended up being a 109-104 overtime setback and did
not return.

One day later, Smith was suspended for two games by general manager Billy
Knight for conduct detrimental to the team. Smith missed Tuesday’s win over
Boston and will sit out Friday’s home game against Washington as well.

The sad part is, Smith had a chance to put his stamp on the club. He could
have shown the Hawks’ players and staff he could be a leader.

Smith is Atlanta’s second-leading scorer at 16.1 points per game, well behind
Johnson’s 25 points per outing. Still, he had been helping shoulder the load
in Johnson’s absence. Atlanta even won its first four games without Johnson in
the lineup, but little has gone right since.

Atlanta has lost 10 of 13 since that four-game burst. That includes a seven-
game losing streak.

Smith is just 21-years-old, but is already in his third year in the league. He
is a former first-round pick, so there is some expectations to be had as well.
Also, the Hawks’ average age is 23.7, so it’s not a far stretch to expect the
younger Smith to have an influence over a just-as-young squad.

But all Atlanta learned is that Smith is not ready to be a leader.

ATL