Wednesday, November 14, 2007


An interesting (devastating?) side effect of my re-entry into the world of fantasy basketball has been my new found obsession with the most anonymous of pro sports franchises, the Hotlanta Awks. In NBA terms, Atlanta is probably better remembered for the Gold Club and the resulting overabundance of knowledge about the habits of Patrick Ewing then as the place Joe Johnson's career went to die (or, if you prefer, to be killed by the Billy Knight, a disfunctional ownership situation and a disinterested fanbase.)

But the Hawks have long been favorites in the less traditional corners of NBA fandom. This is due in large part to the team's apparent experiment with a lineup of five 6'8" swingmen, which one might call Total Basketball. This experiment has, to this point, been a resounding failure in terms of wins and losses, but has unleashed a vast amount of the most revered of NBA qualities: Potential.

Be it Josh Childress's poor-to-destitute-man's Shawn Marion act or Marvin Williams trying to channel his immense gifts and talents into productive directions or even the Acie Law/Tyron Lue/Anthony Johnson/Speedy Claxton bad point guard limbo, (how low can you go and still win? The Hawks have been overshooting the mark for quite a few years on this one. Could be different this year) this team is intriguing from a narrative standpoint.

But no player embodies this more (yet still isn't getting in Shoals' Five) then one Josh "J-Smoove" Smith. Watching every minute of every Hawks game this season has brought me to one realization - Smith is the most talented player in the NBA, yet has no idea "how to play" basketball. There is seemingly no single act he cannot perform, no shot he cannot block (at 6'8 no less):

but he has no 'feel,' for lack of a better word, for when to unleash each particular talent. And worse, he knows this, and is frustrated by it.

Of course this frustration is interpreted as immaturity, surliness, or any other negatively stereotypical adjective used to describe young players by old, jaded haters sportswriters (e.g.) But for me, it's just fascinating to watch him battle with himself, sometimes succeeding but often not. The observation of narratives-in-development such as this are what make the first 3/4 of a given sports season interesting. I mean, who cares whether the Spurs, Mavs or Suns win the most games in the regular season, it will all be decided by David Stern in May or June, as always. But for now, seeing if Smith can keep it together and avoid "Torpedoing* another Hawks season, or if a guy named Moon is for real, are what will keep me going until the stretch run.

* As for that proposed nickname:

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