ATLiens Love ATL, Hate Hawks

Josh Smith (left, who I hope realizes he's repping Anaheim in this photo) and Dwight Howard love the ATL, but not the hometown bball squad.

Remember that video of Charles Barkley talking up his gig as a Weight Watchers spokesperson? The one where he also slammed the Hawks as “a bunch of nice guys”? There was a little more to that conversation:

Barkley: If I were the Hawks, they’re the team to me, I’d try to do anything to get Dwight Howard. Say, “You could have anybody on our team.”

Reggie Miller: Who, them? He doesn’t want to come here.

Barkley: [Shrugs and makes a face like he’s eating something sour.]

There were some rumblings that the Hawks were interested in ponying up some big names for the NBA’s premier big, with the names Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford all thrown around. There were even some rumors that among the enticements to lure Superman were the opportunity to come home and play with his childhood buddy J-Smoove.

Seems like you’d sooner see Jerry Sandusky in a Penn State facility than Howard in a Hawks uni—and to make matters worse, Smith is dying to trade his in for that of another team. Word is, Smith wants to leave the nest. And that’s despite the fact that, at the moment, he’s the Hawks’ best player.

His gripes: When things go badly, he’s the most popular scapegoat. (Though, regardless of what happens, by salary means alone, the scapegoat should always be the lavishly overpaid Joe Johnson.) He’s been the most “consistent” player on the team this year—as much as a Hawks player can be consistent—and should have been an All-Star. (He was definitely more deserving than Joe Yawnson.) But, the Hawks didn’t appear to put any muscle behind promoting his candidacy. I figured the season was up in flames when Horford tore his titty. But, it was Smitty who shouldered most of the load in keeping the Hawks from crashing into the draft lottery.

Writes Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist Jeff Schultz: “Neither Smith nor Howard have a problem with Atlanta itself. It’s more about perceptions of the franchise and the ownership. As players move on in their career, winning titles becomes more important. Smith wants to play for a franchise more committed to winning a championship — or at least one that leaves the impression it knows what it takes to get there.”

The Hawks, thanks to years of hapless ownership (and, as much as I hate to admit it, ‘Nique’s proto-‘Mello ballhoggery), have never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. And with Johnson’s albatross of a contract and a current ownership team that regards getting to the second round of the playoffs as highly as Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger regards having to play-in to the Champions League, things aren’t going to change anytime soon.

So, Josh, take flight. Leave home. This is not the place to get your ring.


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