Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith just can’t seem to get any respect. Despite being one of the Eastern Conference’s best players he seems to get snubbed from the All-Star team year after year. Now he has been looked over for a chance to show off his vast array of skills on the ultimate stage: the Olympic Games.
It’s understandable that Smith wouldn’t be among the final players chosen by the Olympic committee to fill the 12-man roster but when a rash of injuries lessens the talent pool like it has this year, there is no way Smith shouldn’t get a shot to represent his country as a member of Team USA.
Especially when you look at some of the substitutions and how much Smith would have helped at the positions this year’s team is the weakest.
Smith is a shot-blocker and rebounder who can defend nearly every position on the court. He’s a long, super-athletic forward who can pass and create turnovers.
Another thing in Smith’s defense is his ability to play above the rim. Imagine how happy Deron Williams, Chris Paul and LeBron James would be lobbing alley-oops to Smith on the fast break.
Overall though, Smith would make a much better replacement on the Olympic team than Andre Igoudala, James Harden or Anthony Davis would. He’s not as scrawny or raw as Davis and he brings a lot more length than Harden and Igoudala do.
Not only would Smith’s experience on Team USA have benefited America’s quest for Gold, but it also would have benefited Smith as well. The Olympic experience has benefited many players over the years, even players from the original Dream Team back in 1992.
You see, making the Olympic team isn’t the same as making an All-Star team. The All-Star game is an offensive showcase devoid of much defense. It’s basically just entertainment for the league’s fans, especially since the outcome has no bearing on the season itself.
Guys don’t prepare for the All-Star game the way they prepare for the Olympic tournament. There you get to see a true competitor at his best as he prepares to bring home the Gold for his country.
Many of the future Hall-Of-Famers from that first Team USA basketball squad remembered being in awe of how power forward Karl Malone trained. Some of them even went on to admit that it caused them to develop better training habits.
And it’s easy to see how Malone got that chiseled body after watching him in the weight room a couple of times. It may also explain why he was able to be so productive even during his final years in the league.
Malone is still a workout warrior to this day. I mean if you look at Malone now, he looks like he could still average 20 and 10 in the league today.
Hall-Of-Famer or not, a lot of guys have a tendency to take it easy during practice. That was hard to do though when you had a player like Michael Jordan practicing with you. Jordan practiced just as hard as he played in games.
If not for the experience of playing with those other Hall-Of-Famers and seeing how they prepared and approached games, maybe a few of those players from that original Dream Team wouldn’t have made it to the HOF.
This is the one of the reasons why I believe it is a travesty to leave a talented player like Josh Smith off of the Olympic Team.
Smith hasn’t had the chance to play with a Hall-Of-Fame caliber player during his time in the NBA. Playing with guys who have that championship pedigree or potential Hall-Of-Fame swagger like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul could be a career-changing experience.
Playing against a player is one thing but playing with a point guard with the ability to make the game easier for you the way Paul and Williams do is another thing entirely. Playing with someone who can rebound with the tenacity that Kevin Love does can help elevate your game on that end.
Playing with someone who can shoot the rock like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony makes the game a lot easier. And playing against all of these players in practice, a player like Smith has the tendency to pick up on nuances about the game that players like James and Kobe Bryant have long mastered.
We have also seen players have monster seasons after playing in the Olympics. Anthony led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals after playing in the 2008 Olympics and Durant has had two monster seasons after playing for the USA in the 2010 tournament.
James won the first of his three MVP awards after winning Gold in 2008 and Dwight Howard took his team to the NBA Finals the year after winning Gold in 2008. It seems that the confidence a player gets playing for Team USA seems to carry over into their professional career.
And Smith is long overdue for a breakthrough season. An Olympic experience would have paved the way for him to have a monster year during the 2012-2013 NBA season.
But alas we’ll never know since Smith continues to be overlooked by those who deem themselves “basketball experts.” This time though, those experts deprived the world of one of its most explosive basketball talents.
As for Josh Smith? The snubs continue….
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.