Sunday , Jul , 20 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Josh Smith Hoping to Leave Atlanta?

Josh Smith’s increasing reluctance to return to the Atlanta Hawks has little to do with Mike Woodson, despite repeated media suggestions that Smith is eager to play for a new coach.

Smith and Woodson are fine, one confidante insists. Smith’s frustration with the Hawks is the slow-moving state of negotiations, with Smith apparently still waiting for a serious contract proposal nearly three weeks into free agency.

Not that this is a grand surprise given the Hawks’ rep for spending or a quandary exclusive to Smith. The only team in the league with salary-cap space to throw at premier restricteds such as Smith, Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor and Chicago’s Luol Deng is the Memphis Grizzlies, who have no plans to make their money available this summer, preferring to focus on trade possibilities. So the Hawks, Bobcats and Bulls are naturally proceeding slowly and conservatively, figuring that their prized assets have limited leverage.