Talking With a Trio of All-Stars
Plus, Josh Smith isn’t sure he’ll ever be named an All-Star.
by Tracy Weissenberg
The Clippers arrived in town to play the Hawks on Friday, one day after All-Star reserves were announced. Joe Johnson received the honor for the fifth straight season, the longest streak for a Hawk since Dominique Wilkins’s nine straight appearances from 1986-94. This is the second year teammate Al Horford will join him, an honor coach Larry Drew describes as special.
“What it shows is it’s just not a fluke to be able to do it back-to-back years,” says Drew, “When people make it the first time, some people can say that was kind of luck. But you can come back and achieve it back-to-back, it just lets you know that the individual is—he’s really good at what he does and he’s being recognized by a lot of people who view him the same way… Both Joe and Al certainly have the ability to be All-Stars for a long period of time if they stay healthy and both guys, I really believe, will make that accomplishment.”
Here’s what the two ATL All-Stars had to say:
On being named an All-Star:
Al Horford: “An honor and just very excited to be a part of the all-star team again and just ready to go out there and represent the Hawks.”
On being selected with a teammate:
JJ: “It makes it a lot better. I think last year me and Al had a great time in Dallas and just getting another opportunity, which I’m sure he’s a lot more comfortable now…I’m sure we both will go out there and have a great time.”
On being chosen by the Eastern Conference coaches:
AH: “It’s special just because they really have an appreciation for the game and I’m very fortunate to be a part of it and to get to go with Joe—another one of my teammates—that’s probably one of the best parts for me.”
On last year’s All-Star game in Dallas:
JJ: “In Dallas, it was amazing honestly. I think I caught myself watching the big jumbo screen more than I was watching the court. It was fun, I enjoyed it, had a great time. The biggest output [of fans] in an All-Star game, Jerry Jones done a great job with that and he made it worth our while.”
AH: “Just being able to hang out with my family out there and them enjoy it as much as I did and making new friends with some of the other guys in the league…It was pretty special, I couldn’t get over the big screen. You know the big screen and I remember when I was on the bench, we’d be watching the game on the screen and it was just an unforgettable experience.”
On Josh Smith not making the All-Star team:
AH: “It’s obviously disappointing but we know that he deserves that kind of merit and Josh is a great player. But I think that more importantly, we gotta stay focused on our team and just keep moving on from this.”
On whether, at the beginning of his career, Johnson pictured this type of success including five straight all-star selections and counting:
JJ: “I envisioned it, not knowing if it would happen or not. Now that it’s reality, every year has been amazing and I’m sure this year will be amazing too. I’m just looking forward to embracing going out there, having fun, representing the Atlanta Hawks.”
First person you told when you heard you made the team?
JJ: “My mother.”
AH: “My mom.”
What more does Josh Smith need to do?
Even against Blake Griffin on Friday night, it was Josh Smith’s dunks that stole the show and it was his tip in late in the fourth quarter that put the Hawks in position to win. On the floor, Josh’s style demands your attention. As flashy as his game is, he leaves the show on the court after the final buzzer. Josh isn’t the type to campaign for an All-Star selection with a gimmick, or even promote himself at all really.
For Josh’s ability, he probably does not get the recognition his play warrants. Players like Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are some of the best at marketing themselves, especially in a situation like the All-Star game which is about celebrating the League.
Not all players seek attention or media opportunities off the court. Being a basketball player doesn’t mean you have to be a public personality as well. However, sometimes it is beneficial to see the other side.
One thing about Smoove is that he is a team player. He is one of the loudest guys cheering on the bench, often demonstratively waving a towel to celebrate a teammate’s great play. As an integral part of the Hawks’ success, it has to be disappointing to be overlooked when it comes to an honor like being voted an All-Star. However, just like in a game, every missed shot is an opportunity for a rebound. The key is to just keep it moving.
Here’s what Smith had to say:
On whether the perceived snub will motivate him:
Josh Smith: “No, I’m not worried about that. If I don’t have any motivation with just wanting to be a good team, then I shouldn’t have any motivation at all. You know what I mean? I just want the team to do good, I’m definitely proud of those guys for being able to make the All-Star team. I wish them the best, I hope they have a lot of fun that weekend and I’m just gonna use the weekend to rest my body.”
Do you feel your name will be called one day?
JS: “If it comes, it comes, but if not, I’ll be satisfied with the success and knowing that my teammates hold me down and I have a heavy fan base that believes in me. So I’m not really worried about All-Star. It’s fun to be a part of and it’s good to have (with your name) but if they don’t see it now, then I don’t think they’ll ever see it.”
Griffin’s demeanor is very serious and focused—not surprising given what he has accomplished this season. Asked about the Dunk Contest, he quickly changed the subject to the upcoming stretch of games before the break, especially after the hard fought 1-point loss his squad suffered against the Hawks. Here’s what Griffin had to say.
On the All-Star nod:
Blake Griffin: “The best part is I owe all of this to my teammates and to our coaching staff and everybody involved and trying to help me get back. Without them, I wouldn’t be anywhere so I share this with them.”
On whether he expected it:
BG: “To be honest, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it, I didn’t know either way…not that I didn’t care. It was out of my hands. It was just one of those things, I appreciate being voted in.”
On his success this season:
BG: “It’s been a lot of fun, it’s been crazy. It’s had its ups and downs. The best part about it is I can feel myself learning along with the team. As long as we do that, we’ll keep getting better.”