“Josh and I discussed the issue and he understood and accepted this course of action,” general manager Danny Ferry said in the release. “We are confident that he will respond positively, learn from this experience and come back with a renewed sense of purpose to the team moving forward.”
Smith was also fined an undisclosed amount for a transgression loosely filed by the Hawks as “conduct detrimental to the team.”
Smith will miss tonight’s (Jan. 16) game against the Brooklyn Nets, a noteworthy game in that former Hawk star Joe Johnson makes his first appearance at Phillips Arena since he was traded to the Nets last summer.
Smith released a statement, as well.
“Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses,” Smith said. “I understand and respect the team’s actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates. I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight’s game.”
The Hawks did not announce the cause of the suspension. However, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted this morning that Smith was kicked out of practice by coach Larry Drew on Tuesday.
Drew had promised changes to the lineup after the Hawks were blown out in embarrassing fashion by the Chicago Bulls Monday night, 97-58.
Smith received a technical foul in the Monday loss at Chicago during a scuffle that broke out after Devin Harris sent Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich—a former Hawk—into the basket support when Hinrich was driving to the basket.
The Hawks have lost six of their last seven games and Smith has been playing some of his worst basketball of the season during that stretch.
Smith is shooting just 40.6 percent during this cold stretch, including just 22.2 percent from 3-point range. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him from firing up nearly four 3-pointers a game during the same time span.
Smith’s name has been widely circulated in trade speculation, given that he is in the final year of his five-year, $58 million contract.
But it has not been a contract year to remember thus far for Smith. He has regressed badly this season, shooting more 3-pointers per 36 minutes than he ever has before despite making less than 33 percent of those attempts. His turnovers are up, his assists are down, his shooting is worse and his rebounding percentage is at its lowest mark in five years.
And now, apparently, he’s having problems with Drew.
It’s certainly not the pretty picture a free-agent-to-be wants to be painting as he prepared to look for a big payday.
It’s not likely the suspension will have any long-lasting effect on his value either in free agency or as trade bait unless this sort of thing happens again. One-time incidents are easily dismissed, but when problems begin to recur, that’s when red flags begin to be raised.
One could argue that the recent struggles of the Hawks are as much a matter of the team regressing to the mean as any other factor. Atlanta wasn’t expected to be a serious contender in the Eastern Conference this year, not after losing Johnson and not really replacing him with another No. 1 option.
But the Hawks surprised a lot of observers with a 20-10 start, a start that has been followed by a 1-6 stretch. At 21-16, Atlanta is sixth in the East, one game ahead of the Boston Celtics and a half-game behind the Bulls.
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