Forget the stripes for a minute and lock in on Smith’s donuts in the 3-point shots attempted and made columns. That’s pretty stuff if you’re one of those people that groan loudly every time he takes a shot outside of two feet. Smith vowed to steer clear of the 3-point arc and at least for one game, he stuck to it. Ha. While I could care less how many shots from deep that he attempts. What I did like was his clear-cut intention to create an inside presence offensively. Smith parked on the block repeatedly during his 21 minutes, and showed off several new moves around the basket that surprised even some of his biggest detractors. Granted, he did hoist a 19-footer on his second shot of the game (someone shouted, “No, No!” when he pulled up). But he drained it, much to the delight of that same fan, who conceded, “Oh, he must have worked on that this summer.”There's not an inaccurate word in that account* but it's incomplete. Smith took four more mid- to long-range two-point jump shots after making that early 19-footer and he missed all of them. He used five of his nine field goal attempts on jump shots. He took five jump shots in 20:47. He made one of five jump shots. That's 0.4 points per possession off of Smith jumpers in a game where the Hawks averaged well over a point per possession (and were well over their game average while the starters played). Any way you slice it, that's not good.
What still inspires hope is that Smith wasted five possessions on bad shots and still played well overall. He was active defensively. He looked to attack the basket from the post, off the dribble, or by cutting without the ball. He had four assists against a single turnover. He is a special talent who, if he can give up the consistent comfort of failure jump shots appear to give him, can become a special player any day he chooses.
*I was disappointed that the cries of "No" that have long accompanied a Josh Smith jump shot in Philips were not replaced by "Bet it hit rim." The home crowd needs to step its collective game up by the regular season.