Hawks Back to Basketball
Plus Joe on MMA and acting, and Josh talks about his new kicks.
by Tracy Weissenberg
Philips Arena was bustling Friday night with the start of NBA training camps. All of the returning Hawks appeared to be in fantastic shape, which is a testament to a long offseason of training. NBA veterans Tracy McGrady and Jerry Stackhouse were present, along with the Hawks core that reached four straight postseasons.
After practice, I asked Joe Johnson about training this summer at Legacy Fit, a Miami gym that specializes in mixed martial arts training. On whether he participated in any MMA conditioning, Johnson said, “No, I didn’t do no MMA training. They tried to get me to, but by the time we was done with our workout, I was beat, I couldn’t make it.”
“They just tried to get us out there in the ring a couple of times, and you know, I wasn’t going for it,” he said.
The Hawks’ five-time All-Star worked out with another player who is quickly garnering serious accolades. Johnson and two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant trained in Miami, after which Durant said to The Oklahoman that it felt as if he and Johnson were teammates while working out. “It definitely was great, man,” said Johnson, “It was motivating. And yeah you do [feel like teammates], ’cause a lot of drills that we do are team drills…it’s just rooting each other on and just making it competitive at the same time.”
Besides basketball, Johnson held a reception in Arkansas for his charity, named the Joe Johnson Foundation. Asked about the foundation’s mission, Johnson said, “Me and my family just came together. My mom beat cancer about a year ago so it’s pretty much dedicated to her and we’re still working on it.”
Before the interview ended, I had to ask Johnson about some comments he made earlier in the summer about his desire to pursue acting at some point. On how serious he is about the endeavor, he said, “I’m very serious, we’ll see. Right now, I’m a professional athlete, and we’ll see what happens when my career is done playing ball.”
On whether he ever took an acting class, Johnson said with a smile, “No, I haven’t, I’m just somewhat of a natural.”
“I got some things that I’m trying to plan for this upcoming summer,” he added, “Right now my main focus is doing the best for the Atlanta Hawks and trying to get a Championship here.”
Hawks Renaissance forward Josh Smith came to camp looking especially fit after losing a reported 30 pounds during the offseason. “I think I did a lot more cardio than usual…It wasn’t hard, I actually didn’t mean to lose that much weight so I guess when you don’t think about it, you start to shed it,” he said.
On his mindset coming into training camp, Smith said, “I’m here and I’m ready to play. I’m excited that the lockout’s over with and I’m ready to be a part of this ball club and I just want to be able to get things accomplished this year—more than what we ever have in all the years that I’ve been here. I think that we have the team to do it and I just want us to be able to try to—with a little bit more added pieces before we start playing—I just want us to be able to know that we can play with any team on the court. We have to know it and believe it and we have to also play together at all times.”
On what he feels the Hawks need on the roster, Smith said, “I think we need a for real, for real knock-down shooter…a guy that can just spread the floor and that’s just gonna knock the shot down.”
The Hawks added a prolific scorer in seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady, although the two-time scoring champ’s career has been derailed by knee injuries. On McGrady’s presence, Smith said, “I’m real excited, he definitely brings veteran leadership, a guy that’s been in this League for a long time, has done some outstanding, amazing things. I think that his knowledge and his wisdom of the game—I think he could bring that to our team. And I think he definitely creates mismatch problems offensively. He’s a great post-up guy, and I think that we’ll be able to utilize him really good in our system.”
Aside from all the cardio and training, Smith found time to shoot a commercial in which he delivered a promotional review of his new adidas shoe, the adiZero Ghost. “It was a real cool experience being able to be on set by myself and just being able to present the shoe,” said Smith. The shoe campaign also gave Smith a chance to show a little bit of his personality away from the court.
Asked if he wants to continue in that direction, Smith said, “I don’t know, maybe if that’s what they want me to do in the future, I’m up for it. It’s cool to be able to show your personality here and there.”
As the Hawks look to show what they can accomplish on the court during the condensed 66-game season, it’s not a bad idea to give the public a glimpse of what inspires them off the court as well.