The college-style recruiting pitch worked.
Joe Smith has spent the past month being wooed by the Hawks, and Tuesday night all the team’s hard work paid off.
Smith signed a one-year deal Tuesday for the veteran’s minimum salary, approximately $1.3 million, rounding out the team’s frontcourt rotation with the veteran big man they’ve searched for all summer.
“When you’re a free agent, that’s key,” Smith said by phone Tuesday evening. “How a team recruits you and what they do to try and get you in their organization says a lot about them. The last month or so the Hawks have been coming hard at me, and that shows how much they wanted me down here and what they think I can bring to this situation.”
A 6-foot-10, 225-pound power forward, the Hawks will be Smith’s 10th NBA team. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1995 draft, Smith finished last season with Cleveland, the team that ended the Hawks’ season in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Smith saw action in 13 playoff games for the Cavaliers, averaging 5.5 points 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 NBA 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,” Hawks general manager Rick Sund said in a statement released by the team. “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.”
Smith’s final decision came down to the Hawks and Cavaliers. And while his recent history with the Cavs made that option a viable one, the non-stop contact from Zaza Pachulia and the full-court press from the Hawks’ coaching and front-office staffs won him over in the end.
“Ultimately, it boiled down to the best role and best situation for me,” Smith said. “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.”
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.