SAN ANTONIO -- When it came time to promote their players for the All-Star team, the Hawks didn’t go with clever campaign materials or media blitzes.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson simply sent letters to his fellow Eastern Conference coaches making the case for guard Joe Johnson, forward Josh Smith, center Al Horford and even reserve Jamal Crawford, who is a long shot to be selected.
The coaches' votes are in, and seven reserves each for the East and West teams are to be announced at 7 p.m. Thursday on TNT. In the letters, Woodson highlighted how the players have helped lift the Hawks to the top of the Southeast Division.
Woodson said he has no idea if it will make a difference in getting his players to Arlington, Texas, for the Feb. 14 game.
“You just send the letters out and hope like hell they do the right thing,” he said. “Bottom line, I look at it based on what your team has done. That’s how I’ve always based the All-Star team.
“Josh, Joe, and Jamal -- when you look at what our team has done, you’ve really got to consider them for the All-Star team.”
The Hawks were a game ahead of Orlando at the top of the division before facing the Spurs on Wednesday night. They trailed Boston by a half game for second place in the East; if the Hawks are No. 2 in the conference after Sunday’s games, Woodson would coach the East team.
The Hawks last had two All-Stars in 1998 (Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Smith) and haven’t had three since 1980 (John Drew, Eddie Johnson and Dan Roundfield). After three consecutive years as the lone Hawks representative, Johnson said he would like Smith and Horford to join him for the game.
“They are both having pretty good seasons," Johnson said. "They’ve been big pieces in our success. I definitely think they should be honored.
“We’ll see, man. I am really looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen.”
All-Star selections can be an unpredictable process, but it appears Johnson is in again, and both Smith and Horford are on the short list of candidates. Though the reserves aren’t slotted into specific positions, coaches tend to compare players by position.
Among East forwards, Toronto’s Chris Bosh is a virtual lock to make the team, and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace likely will be selected. Smith is among a group of contenders that probably includes Washington’s Antawn Jamison, Chicago’s Luol Deng and Indiana’s Danny Granger.
Smith, in his sixth season but still only 24, said being in serious consideration for the All-Star team feels like vindication. Once considered by critics to be a selfish player who wouldn’t accept coaching, Smith has opened eyes this season with his personal and professional maturation.
“When I came in people just tried to put a label on me and really tried to ruin my career early on,” Smith said. “So it does mean a lot. It really does.”
Horford’s competition for an All-Star berth likely includes New York’s David Lee, Boston’s Kendrick Perkins, and Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut. Horford, 23, is a third-year pro.
Horford, an undersized center by NBA standards at 6 feet, 10 inches, said he’s really a power forward playing center. He’s still able to hold his own with bigger centers, and his athletic ability allows the Hawks to play their open-court style and Woodson’s switching man-to-man defense.
“Coming into the year [All-Star] is one of the goals I had,” Horford said. “Obviously right now I am focused on our team’s success. We are doing well. That’s a priority.
“But for me to make the All-Star team, that would be a great honor, no doubt.”
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