MIAMI Josh Smith was born and raised in the Atlanta area and has played his entire NBA career with the Hawks. It doesnt appear that will change anytime soon.
Smith said for economic reasons he is not considering signing a contract extension by the June 30 deadline and will become a free agent this summer. But the forward said he has a good understanding with Hawks general manager Danny Ferry about his future, and he discussed a likelihood of remaining with Atlanta.
I never said one time that I wanted to leave Atlanta, Smith, whose surprising Hawks (12-6) play Wednesday at Orlando, said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida while in Miami for Mondays 101-92 loss to the Heat. It was always rumors and things. The moves that they made (last summer) and the success that were having, I am excited about what is going with this organization and I am considering strongly staying here. I havent ever had any thoughts that I wanted to leave.
Smith, a nine-year veteran who said a published report early last March that he had wanted to be dealt by the March 15 trade deadline was inaccurate, will become a free agent July 1. But he said thats because economic-wise, it doesnt make sense for me to sign an extension.
Smith, who only could add three more years onto his deal with an extension but could re-sign for as many as five years next summer with Atlanta, said he is on the same page with Ferry about his future.
We already have an understanding on whats going on, especially between me and the GM, Smith said of his dealings with Ferry, in his first season with the Hawks. Im not going to tell you (what it specifically entails). Its an understanding that we have.
When it was suggested to Ferry that their understanding figures to result in Smith, 27, remaining next season with the Hawks, he didnt disagree.
I value Josh, said Ferry, whose team will have ample salary-cap room next summer. Hes a good player. Were clear about that. And he has been clear (with the Hawks) about how he has enjoyed being in Atlanta . I value Josh, and certainly you want guys like that in your program.
Ferrys quest to retain Smith is certainly helped by Atlantas surprising fast start. There had plenty of corcerns surrounding the Hawks last summer after they traded six-time All-Star guard Joe Johnson to Brookyln and starting forward Marvin Williams to Utah.
Some of those concerns initially came from Smith.
When you move two big pieces like that, it is a rebuilding process, Smith said. But those guys are like family to me. It was definitely hard losing those guys.
But Smith felt a lot better after he saw the roster the Hawks eventually put together. While the deal for Johnson mostly was for future cap room and a 2013 first-round pick, they got past All-Star point guard Devin Harris for Williams and also last summer added perimeter threats Louis Williams and Kyle Korver.
The Hawks, who have won nine of their past 11 games, still have center Al Horford, a two-time All-Star averaging 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. And Smith is filling up box scores with averages of 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.41 steals.
Hes always had the talent, Heat forward LeBron James said of fellow all-around player Smith. He has a lot of talent. Hes the leader of that team, and hes continued to add to his game. But I think that helps. Hes doing some good things. I thought he was an All-Star last year, and hes playing at a high level still.
That was noticed by the NBA when Smith was named the most recent Eastern Conference Player of the Week. But Smith said overall there hasnt been much attention paid to Atlantas surge.
Even though people are not acknowledging the things that were doing this season, were cool about flying under the radar, Smith said. Maybe we dont have big names for commentators to be able to satisfy people that are watching. But we really dont care . Were confident. We feel like we can go all the way if we keep getting better each and every night.
Thats heavy stuff to be talking about a championship for a franchise that hasnt won two playoff series in the same season since the St. Louis Hawks' 1957-58 run to the NBA title. But if Smith feels that good now about the Hawks, nobody surrounding the team is complaining.
Josh has been a positive force in Atlanta, so you would like to see him hang around, said Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, a Hawks television analyst who starred for the team from 1982-94. No question you want him back. Danny would love to have him back. I think it will (happen that Smith stays), but weve been surprised before.
For now, though, Smith is offering no indication he plans to surprise anybody next summer.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson