The team did not reveal what that conduct was, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitiution reported that Smith was thrown out of Tuesday’s practice.
Hawks president Danny Ferry announced the suspension in a news release, saying, “Josh and I discussed the issue and he understood and accepted this course of action. We are confident that he will respond positively, learn from this experience and come back with a renewed sense of purpose to the team moving forward.”
That may be more than your usual spin, because the release also included a statement from Smith, indicating he may be back on the same page with his team, coach and teammates after sitting out Wednesday’s game vs. Brooklyn.
“Clearly I am competitive and was frustrated by our recent losses,” Smith said. “I understand and respect the team’s actions and just want to get back on the court to do whatever is necessary to help my teammates. I apologize for letting them down and apologize to our fans for not being available for tonight’s game.”
The Hawks have lost six of their last seven games following a 20-10 start. The recent slide includes losses to Detroit, Cleveland and Washington. Atlanta also squandered a 19-point lead in a loss to Boston last week and was smothered in Monday’s 97-58 loss at Chicago.
Smith and coach Larry Drew already were somewhat at odds. After the Boston loss, Drew called his team “soft.” Smith disagreed, saying, “I’m not rolling with the soft part. We didn’t come out with the energy. Soft is not how we play.”
Drew has wondered whether his team is mentally tired and held a team meeting over the weekend. He also went to a bigger lineup that included backup center Zaza Pachulia, with starting center Al Horford sliding to power forward and Smith to small forward.
Smith is expected to be one of the top free agents on the market this summer. He has spent his entire nine-year career with the Hawks and leads the team with 16.5 points and 2.3 blocks. He also is averaging 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals.
Smith had several run-ins with Mike Woodson, who preceded Drew as Atlanta’s coach.