The Starting Five Talks All-Star Snub, The Playoff Push And Trayvon Martin With Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich
A lot has gone down since I last spoke with Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith – back in January the Hawks were 12-6 and were coming to grips with losing all-star center Al Horford indefinitely with a shoulder injury. At this moment there is no timetable for Horford’s return.
We talked about Smith’s strong start and the even stronger possibility that he would make the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time in his career. Smith wasn’t selected as a starter or reserve for the Eastern Conference, raising eyebrows throughout the league.
In our second meeting Josh and I discussed the All-Star snub, the post season run and Trayvon Martin along with teammates Joe Johnson and Kirk Hinrich.
Since that 12-5 start in January, the Hawks have gone 19-17 and hold the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks did get some good news when Kirk Hinrich returned to the lineup after missing the first month of the season. The nine-year veteran gives the Hawks another shooter as well as help as a dual guard.
I met up with Josh upon arrival at the Wells Fargo Center, he was locked into two flat screens, one was showing the Sixers loss to the Wizards the night before and the other had the National Semifinal contest between Kentucky and Louisville which had point guard Jeff Teague well-animated throughout my interview with Josh.
Ron Glover: The last time we spoke, we talked about your fast start without Al Horford and the possibility of making the All-Star team this season. Unfortunately, you were not selected for the East squad – how have you used that as motivation in the second half of the season and going forward?
Josh Smith: Well, I’m self-motivated so I really don’t need any added motivation because I know the importance of how much my team needs me. As far as the All-Star game, it’s over and done – it’s April and the All-Star Game was in February, so I really don’t think about it.
RG: The last couple of weeks you guys have played good ball, Kirk (Hinrich) is healthy and back in the lineup and the team is moving along in the standings. At this point of the season where is your fatigue level?
JS: I don’t feel tired, no more than another person does. Everybody right now is going through different phases in their body. Obviously with the wear and tear of the season you have to take advantage when it comes to taking care of your body. I’m a veteran now and my main concern is us as a team going into the postseason healthy and confident.
RG : You’re facing a team in Philadelphia tonight that’s coming off their worst loss of the season, not to mention losing the division lead what do you guys look to carry out tonight?
JS: We want to control the momentum of the game, they’re ahead of us in the standings so we want to try to come in and play our game and hopefully come out with a win.
RG: I talked with Arthur Triche (Hawks PR) and he told me how your guys did a hoodie shoot on your trip to Milwaukee. What are your thoughts on Trayvon Martin and everything surrounding his death?
JS: It’s definitely a sensitive subject to talk about – he looked like a kid that had ambitions in life, he looked like a good kid. It’s just unfortunate that this situation had to happen. I can’t imagine what I would’ve done if that was anyone in my family. This has definitely started a movement around the United States. Judging people of different ethnicities because of you want to believe isn’t fair.
RG: Growing up here in the North, the racial climate is different as opposed to the South or Midwest. Growing up in Atlanta what have you experienced and does some of that profiling still occur today?
JS: I still deal with it, I’m from Atlanta, Georgia that’s as southern as you’re gonna get. There’s always racial profiling, there just a way to go about it, you can’t worry about what people are going to think as an African-American or anyone else you have to do your best to educate yourself and the next person or the next ethnic group on how to handle things like that. I handle it by holding my head high, speaking like I have good sense and carrying myself in a respectable manner.
RG: The Black athletes of this generation have been criticized for not being outspoken on some social issues in the past, how has the outpouring of support for Trayvon Martin changed that perception?
JS: No matter where you go in life people are going to have their own perceptions and opinions of you. The best thing that you can do is not worry about those things and live as righteous as you can.
I head over to Joe Johnson who is taking in the game as well.
RG: Joe, can you give me your feelings on the death of Trayvon Martin and how it has effected you?
Joe Johnson: It’s a sad and unfortunate thing for African-Americans to endure once again because no matter how things may look – this is proof that racism still exists in this country. I heard that there were some break-ins in that area, but it doesn’t give you the right to just single out someone as a burglar because of how he may look to you. I’m glad to see that people are rallying behind this situation, it’s a shame that he had to lose his life behind it. But it’s good to see people trying to make a difference.
RG: I’m sure that looking back we can all recall a situation where we encountered some sort of racial profiling. What if any experiences did you have growing up in Arkansas?
JJ: I remember a time when I was walking with my friends and we walked past this old white man’s house and he went into the house and grabbed his gun, we all scrambled to get behind this big tree. Come to find out he said that someone had been throwing rocks at his house and he thought that some kids were doing it. It just goes to show you that he could’ve shot me or one of my friends, you really have to count your blessings.
RG: Have gesture and tributes from players and teams in the NBA changed the public perception about how Black athletes are in terms of social awareness?
JJ: We understand that we’re role models and that we effect a lot of people’s lives and we’re just trying to rally behind this situation because someone lost their life over nothing.
RG: It looks like you guys are starting to make a late season push moving towards the playoffs.
JJ: In these last 14 games, we’re just trying to position ourselves to make a good run in the playoffs. We’ve been short-handed for most of the season and we’ve managed to pull through somehow – guys stepped up and we’ve just been able to keep it rolling. Hopefully, Al (Hortford) can come back but if he can’t we’ll just keep playing hard trying to win ball games.
There is no timetable on Al Hortford’s return, Johnson did mention that Hortford says that he feels good and has been shooting around.
Guard Kirk Hinrich just enters from treatment and is taking in some of the Kentucky/Louisville matchup.
RG: Kirk, what are your thoughts on the death of Trayvon Martin and what do you hope to see come out of this?
Kirk Hinrich: It’s such a terrible deal, you have a young man who isn’t here anymore. It’s very sad and unfortunate – hopefully the justice system doesn’t let us down.