By Rob Mahoney
Scoring eight points in a quarter, 20 points in a half and 58 points in a game is likely to create tension around the basketball workplace. That apparently was the case in Atlanta after the slumping Hawks were dismantled by Chicago 97-58 on Monday.
In the process, forward Josh Smith seems to have blown his top, netting himself a one-game suspension. On Wednesday, the Hawks announced that Smith would sit for that night's game against the Nets because of conduct detrimental to the team. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has connected the dots, reporting that Smith was thrown out of practice on Tuesday for some infraction not yet disclosed.
None of this is exactly out of character for the emotive Smith, but it's certainly interesting that the Hawks would take such significant public action in response to something that happened behind closed doors. Regardless of what Smith did to get under the skin of coach Larry Drew or general manager Danny Ferry, this suspension puts the Hawks in a tough spot with the regular-season tide already working against them.
The Hawks have lost six of their last seven games, and they will apparently call on the seldom-used Johan Petro to help replace Smith. A single game against Brooklyn won't make or break Atlanta's season, but a win could at least help halt the skid that has seen the Hawks drop from third in the Eastern Conference to sixth. Forward-thinking fans might also see this as an omen regarding Smith's potential future (or lack thereof) in Atlanta, given that he'll be a free agent in July. But there's no reason to believe that a hiccup like this would really push Ferry to any particular end. The coaching staff and management are well aware of what Smith brings as both a player and a personality, and their decision to trade or not trade him before the Feb. 21 deadline is unlikely to have anything to do with what transpired early this week.