An Interview With Atlanta's Josh Smith

The Atlanta Hawks don't usually get a ton of attention, but this summer, Josh Smith has been rolling in relevance. He was a prized free agent, is tight with pioneer Josh Childress, and now, is returning to a young team that put up a fight against those championship Celtics. Smith spent last week at the 2008 adidas Nations camp in Dallas, where he was one of seven pros who worked as an NBA Mentor with young players from around the world. I caught up with him by phone over the weekend, shortly after his future with the Hawks got sorted out. ↵

↵Bethlehem Shoals: As an NBA Mentor, what exactly is your role down there? ↵

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↵Josh Smith: We're each assigned to a certain team. I was able to get the USA 2009 team. I'm like a coach, and then I'm also trying to help the players by telling them about my experiences at their age. I know what it takes to make it at the professional level, so I'm sharing that with them. Just giving them good advice for the future. ↵

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↵JS: Any players you've been struck by and why? ↵

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↵BS: Peyton Siva, a point guard on the 2009 team going to Louisville. Also, Brandon Knight, a point guard on the 2010 team. Peyton's impressive to me because he's so athletic. He's had a couple tip-ins, and you don't expect to see that from someone that short. He's also passing the ball well, recognizing the defense, and giving guys open looks at baskets. Just like Brandon is. ↵

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↵BS: Since you're a long forward known for your shot-blocking and finishing, it's interesting to me that you're most taken with two point guards. ↵

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↵JS: You're nothing without a good point guard. ↵

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↵BS: You came of age as the rest of the world really started catching up to the USA. How do you see that in an international event like this one? ↵

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↵JS: The U.S. is definitely still dominant. But the other teams aren't too far from being there. They're being competitive, playing hard. The 2009 team has had a couple of nail-biters. You can tell the foreign kids are trying to make a name for themselves. ↵

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↵BS: Speaking of international ball, before this summer, had you ever heard Josh Childress (or anyone else) bring up the option of going overseas? ↵

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↵JS: We'd never talked about it during the season. I didn't think about it during the summertime until things started opening up and it started to look like a possibility for Josh. I didn't know if he was serious about it until I heard the amount he was offered. I told him "you'll always be my teammate, just do what's best for you and your family." I'm sad to see him go, but he really deserved it. ↵

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↵BS: In general, was it on the players' radar at all before Childress? ↵

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↵JS: It was a complete surprise. I didn't think it would ever happen. But he's opened the door for other players to think about playing overseas and not hear bad things about it, knowing that it's really a global game now. ↵

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↵BS: Were you surprised by the Grizzlies' offer sheet? It certainly seemed to come out of the blue. ↵

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↵JS: It definitely did. I didn't know it was going to be a possibility. We'd had a few things that didn't work out, but then that one came through. Unfortunately for them, Atlanta matched. I'm excited to be going back home; I'm from Atlanta, I've got family here, friends, fans. I don't at all think it's a bad move for me to be going back. Mostly, I'm just happy for it to be over with. ↵

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↵BS: Next season, are you guys looking to build on the Celtics series? ↵

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↵JS: We can't go backward. We have to try to keep moving. It's going to be hard because Childress isn't there, but we've been playing together a couple of years. We know each others' games and have that chemistry. ↵

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↵BS: Are the fans going to show up like they did in the playoffs? ↵

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↵JS: I think so. People are still talking about that series. They're looking forward to cheering us on this season. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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