Yet when Smith talks about shooting threes, he sounds an awful lot like a recovering addict. "I just don't put myself in that situation where I'm tempted to do it, because I probably will," he said while sitting in his hotel room during a recent road trip. "If I find myself dangling around the perimeter, I'll move in a couple of steps." Making it even tougher is that most of his friends don't understand why he's on the wagon. "They tell me to shoot them because they know I can, they've seen me do it...." Smith trails off, stares through the TV, then continues. "I'm O.K., though. I just feel like it's not a need right now."Chris Ballard makes ample use of Hoopdata in his profile but still ignores the elephant in the room those 3 (well, 2.9) long two-point jumpers Smith takes per game, those shots he makes 28% of the time. I know I spend more time thinking about the Hawks than almost everyone else but how hard is it to make the connection between one category of missed jump shot and another? The Hawks gain little if Smith eliminates the three-point attempts but takes more long two-point jumpers that he can't make any more often (and are worth one point less when he does) than he can the three-point shots.
Smith says the epiphany came last summer. He was watching film and realized "at this point in my career I'm not the best three-point shooter." Especially with a roster that includes marksmen like Johnson, Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford, Smith concluded he was better off working on his post moves and midrange game.
What Smith doesn't mention is that when he was watching that video, it was at his dad's urging, the two sitting together in Josh's home theater. And, slowly, with Pete's voice in his ear, Josh began to better understand the game, piece by piece. After all, it was his dad who'd taught Smith how to shoot down at the rec center, telling him, "eye over elbow, hand in the cookie jar, never fall away." It was his dad who had Josh do dribbling drills on the carpeted cement floor of the family beauty salon, weaving around the chairs Pete had lined up (while customers were on hand, no less). Now here was his dad, whom Josh calls "a father and older brother in one," telling him it wasn't all about scoring. They talked about when to shoot, when to pass and, finally, where to shoot. "He came up with the idea to stop shooting threes," says Pete. "And I was really proud of him. I always tell him that I think basketball is an outward expression of your inner life. And I see him maturing as a man. He doesn't need to shoot those threes to prove anything to anyone. He's realizing that all you need to do is prove it to yourself."
"Oh, I'll shoot threes again," he says when asked. "It could be next season or it could be a couple of years from now, but I'll start shooting them again once I've mastered the midrange game."
Smith's mastery of the mid-range awaits only his elimination of the two-point jumpers from his game. His final quote excerpted above may be driven by pride as much if not more than obstinate self-delusion. A healthy dose of both is not necessarily disconnected from high achievement. Smith's actions on the court, the shots he chooses to take and the shots he passes will determine to what degree he masters this game. I believe he can but he hasn't yet.