Houston Rockets forward and former Atlanta Hawks player Josh Smith called Hawks fans "bandwagoners" after Atlanta's 104-96 win over Houston on March 3.
Josh Smith has dubbed Atlanta Hawks fans "bandwagoners."
ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz broke the news just moments after the Hawks beat the Houston Rockets, Smith's current team, 104-96, on March 3. Arnovitz described the interaction between Smith, a former Hawks forward and Atlanta native, and the Philips Arena crowd as "lively."
Smith got booed loudly every time he had the ball, per ESPN. The jeering grew louder in the third quarter when he rattled in a three-pointer. He then shushed the home crowed with his finger as he left the court after the Hawks called a timeout.
When Arnovitz asked him about the Atlanta fans, Smith got right to the point. He said,"I mean, those fans are fickle, very fickle and bandwagoners. It really doesn't mean anything to me."
Smith also said he believes he made an impact on the Hawks and their city during his nine-year stint there, per ESPN. He said,"I'd been here for nine years, and all I did was positive things in the community and with the basketball team."
Arnovitz can attest to that: He says Smith was "active in local charities" as Hawk. He eventually earned a nomination during the 2011-12 NBA season for the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.
On the other hand, the ESPN update stresses the Hawks did make the postseason six straight years during Smith's tenure. However, they have always been in the lower half of the NBA hierarchy in terms of attendance.
However, that has changed.
The surging Hawks have the NBA's best record at 48-12 (.800) through March 3. Because of that, they are averaging just over 17,000 fans every night -- the highest average the team has enjoyed since Smith's rookie year in 2004, per ESPN.
Arnovitz then describes Smith's love-hate relationship with Hawks fans on the basketball court when he was still in Atlanta:
"Smith was a polarizing player during his nine seasons in Atlanta. Chosen by the Hawks with the No. 17 pick in (the) 2004 draft, Smith dazled fans with his acrobatics, shot-blocking and athleticism.
"But despite being a 28.3 percent three-point shooter, Smith attempted more than 942 shots from beyond the arc as a Hawk. Toward the end of his tenure, a groan would emanate from the crowd at Philips Arena whenever he elevated for a long-range shot."
Smith then inked a four-year, $54 million contract with the Detroit Pistons in 2013. He struggled during his career in Detroit, prompting the team to release him on Dec. 22, 2014, per Arnovitz.
Since Smith signed with the Rockets on Dec. 26, he has averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists, per ESPN stats.
As for the game on Tuesday, the Rockets got off to a 15-point lead with just 10:32 left to play. It wasn't just Smith who tried to rile up the Atlanta crowd during a fourth-quarter timeout. Another former Hawk, Jason Terry, "used the break to further incite the crowd," says The Atlanta Journal-Constituion's Chris Vivlamore.
The Hawks promptly responded with a backbreaking 32-8 run to seal their eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs, per Vivlamore. All-Star point guard Jeff Teague was at the forefront of the Atlanta onslaught, scoring a team-high 25 points. His three-pointer with 4:24 left gave his team a 91-90 lead, capping off a 19-3 run at that point.
Hawks power forward-center Al Horford scored 18 points while power forward Paul Millsap came through with 16 points and 14 rebounds, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta small forward DeMarre Carroll told Vivlamore that Smith was the one who got the Hawks going in the fourth quarter:
"It was chippy and that was what really got us going. If they were quiet and just did what they did, they wouldn't have woke up Jeff Teague, they wouldn't have woke up myself, they wouldn't have woke up Paul. I think that was when it got chippy and Josh Smith was doing all this."
The Rockets, who slipped to 41-19 (.683), were without the league's leading scorer James Harden, whom the NBA suspended for one game without pay for kicking Cleveland Cavaliers foward LeBron James during their game on March 1. Terry led Houston's cause against Atlanta with 21 points, per Vivlamore.
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