Rumors surfaced that long-time Hawks forward Josh Smith would join Dwight Howard in Houston, but the free agent turned down both the Rockets and Hawks on Saturday and signed with the Pistons.
ATLANTA -- The Josh Smith era in Atlanta is over.
The former Hawks forward agreed in principle to a four-year, $56 million contract with the Pistons on Saturday, according to Channel 2 Action News. Several other media outlets also reported the agreement. The deal puts an end to the tenuous nine-year relationship between Smith and his hometown Hawks.
The Hawks drafted Smith out of high school with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft. During his Hawks tenure, Smith amassed impressive statistics. He leaves the team ranked in the franchise's top 10 in most statistical categories, including games, points and rebounds. The talented Smith electrified crowds with his high-flying abilities --on offense and defense.
This season he became the 24th player in NBA history to amass 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocked shots, and the ninth to do that with one team. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Smith is the only player in league history with career averages of at least 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game. He played a major role in the Hawks' six consecutive postseason appearances.
Smith did aggravate a portion of the fan base with ill-timed shots, especially from 3-point range. He was suspended several times, including once last season for conduct detrimental to the team after getting kicked out of a practice.
"As I walked off the court, everything just sort of hit me," he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the Hawks' season-ending playoff loss to the Pacers in April. "Just the uncertainty of what the future holds. Just thinking about all of the relationships I've had here and the people who've crossed my path since I've been here. I just ... I just don't know.
"The only thing I know is I want to be able to experience free agency. I want to explore my options and see what's out there. I don't have any certain idea what's going to happen."
As an unrestricted free agent, Smith could have received a maximum deal of five years and $94 million from the Hawks. He could have signed with another team for a maximum of four years and $70 million. Per NBA rules, he cannot sign the deal with the Pistons until Wednesday.
The Hawks signaled the end of Smith's tenure in Atlanta on Friday when they agreed to contracts with forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll. Less than 24 hours later, Smith agreed to join the Pistons.
The Pistons pushed hard for Smith, meeting with him and his agents one minute into the start of the NBA's free-agency period July 1. He also met with the Rockets, who reached an agreement with Dwight Howard on Friday.
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry never officially said that the book on Smith in Atlanta was over.
"Josh has been a valuable part of the Hawks for the past nine years," Ferry said recently. "We appreciate and respect what he has done. I also respect that he enters unrestricted free agency for the first time and wants to consider his options. We are in the same situation, and we have to determine what is best for us moving forward as well."