Josh Smith to sit out against Oklahoma City Thunders
Josh Smith reportedly suffered an ankle sprain during the Atlanta Hawks’ season opener Friday night. The Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew revealed that Josh Smith woke up Saturday with a sore ankle, so the team chose to leave him and teammate Johan Petro behind to recuperate in time for Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
"It was a little sore (Saturday). I know he got it treated,” stated Larry Drew following team shootaround practice in Oklahoma City. “We made the decision to leave him back and get it treated. Our focus was to get him ready for Wednesday's game.”
However, Josh Smith didn’t show any visible signs of discomfort or soreness, logging-in around 43 minutes against the Houston Rockets and playing all 12 minutes of the final quarter. Josh Smith had 18 points, 10 rebound and three blocks against the Houston Rockets.
After the Atlanta Hawks traded Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets during the offseason, Josh Smith automatically qualified as the team’s leading scorer. Last season, Josh Smith led the Atlanta Hawks with an average 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.74 blocks per game.
In Josh Smith’s absence, the Atlanta Hawks’ front court isn’t strong enough to keep on building a scoring rhythm even with guard Louis Williams coming off the bench.
The Atlanta Hawks even struggled to put a stop to Houston Rockets shooting guard James Hardens’ flurry of 45 points (his career-high in a game) so Lord knows how they’ll keep Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook covered on Sunday. While a one-on-one guarding scheme will fail against Kevin Durant, the Atlanta Hawks can force the forward to make untimely inaccurate shots by sending double teams his way and hoping that his teammates have a disappointing night on the board.
The Houston Rockets crushed the Atlanta Hawks on the boards by gaining 23 offensive rebounds adn out-rebounding their opponent by 58-36 on Friday.
The Atlanta Hawks could turn to center/power forward Al Horford for support but he hasn’t put up a dominating performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder yet. Al Hordord missed both games against the Oklahoma City Thunder last season and during eight career games the team, he’s only averaged 10.9 points and 10.5 rebounds during 38.1 minutes per game.
Anthony Tolliver will fill-in for Josh Smith in the starting against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Atlanta Hawks could see more time from Al Horford, center Zaza Pachulia and even forward Ivan Johnson Sunday night.
However, with Josh Smith out of Sunday’s game, the Atlanta Hawks suffer an upsetting loss in veteran experience and leadership. Although Josh Smith is only 26, he has been eight-years with the Atlanta Hawks since being drafted in 2004 and is at the core of the team.
Josh Smith’s injury could also spoil the Atlanta Hawk’s efforts of gelling together the roster after bringing in a lot of new faces this season.