--F Joe Smith has played bigger than his listed size since his college days at Maryland.A 6-10, 225-pound power forward and the No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft, Smith finished last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But he clearly wasn't big enough for the Cavs, who went out and grabbed Shaquille O'Neal to bolster their frontline.
Smith's game and measurements proved ideal for the Hawks. He saw action in 13 playoff games for the Cavaliers, averaging 5.5 point and 3.7 rebounds. For the season, he averaged 6.5 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting nearly 50 percent (.496) from the floor.
Smith's 14 years in the league give him experience and perspective that many of his new, and much younger teammates, will find valuable.
"Joe's acquisition provides us with a solid complement to our frontcourt," said Hawks general manager Rick Sund. "Not only does he bring years of experience to our team, but his versatility gives our coaching staff a player who can play multiple positions and an individual who will provide tremendous leadership in the locker room."
At this stage of his career, Smith knows that his veteran leadership is a large part of his appeal.
"Being around different teams and different situations and players, all types of players," Smith said, "I understand what it takes to be successful and consistent in this league. That's the main thing right now for this team is putting together some consistent basketball for as much of the 82 games of the season as we can. The more consistent we can be the better we can be."
--Hawks part-owner Michael Gearon Jr. is sticking to his story.
The legal wrangling that has hung over the franchise the past four years has had no effect on the team's daily operations. That would explain why he's so adamant about there being no discernable change in the Hawks' daily operations now that the franchise's ownership dispute appears to be moving into its final stage.
A Maryland judge has ruled that the eight-man ownership group, Atlanta Spirit LLC, resume operations as it was before its acrimonious break-up in 2005.
"As far as the teams go, there's nothing that's happened that we wouldn't have done (differently)," Gearon said. "And when you look at the decisions made everything our general managers have suggested we've done.
"The whole legal process has been draining. But it's been more of a personal drain than the teams. You look at the decisions we've made where people talk about us being in limbo. And the reality is the Hawks have had fewer changes than just about any team in basketball. If we can upgrade, we do it."
Gearon used the Hawks' acquisition of G Mike Bibby at the trade deadline two years ago as proof. The Hawks were starved for quality play at point guard and pulled off a deal to get the veteran leader that helped guide them to back-to-back playoff appearances.
With the core of the roster from last season's 47-win team coming back, plus the additions of Jamal Crawford, Jeff Teague and veteran power forward Joe Smith, the Hawks would appear to be on solid ground.
"The Hawks are exactly where I thought they would be," Gearon said. "The big thing for this season, is can our young guys continue to grow? If they grow, I think they are capable of making that next step."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Ultimately, it boiled down to the best role and best situation for me. I think this was a perfect fit. We have a lot of young talent and a lot of guys that can go out on any given night and play well. But you still need a veteran on that team when things are going wrong that can be that voice. I'm excited about being that voice and helping transform all this talent into a consistent winner." -- Recently-acquired F Joe Smith, on why he chose the Hawks over Cleveland.