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Josh Smith Has Contract Issues; LaMarcus Aldridge Is Called One Of The NBA’s Best Players

When he was smashing on cats’ heads back at Oak Hill, we doubt Josh Smith thought he’d one day have to play his way into a contract. Alas, that’s where he’s now at with Atlanta, the only NBA home he’s ever known. New GM Danny Ferry is running a tight financial ship – you can ask Joe Johnson about that – and giving Smith a new deal doesn’t totally make sense for him, at least right now. He just checked into town. Why give a forward who still has some inconsistency problems a massive new contract? So Atlanta isn’t going to give him one now and Ferry says it’s unlikely he gets one all season, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. For Smith, it could be better to wait. He can make more money by hitting free agency and re-siging. Whatever he ends up doing, Smith will eventually get the max deal whenever (and wherever) he does sign. We rated him as (potentially) the fifth-best free agent of 2013, and the only guys in front of him go by the names of Harden, Bynum, Paul and Howard … Here’s a hypothetical for you: IF Gilbert Arenas was going to come back, how would you expect to hear about it? Would it come from a credentialed reporter? Would it come from one of the main media outlets? No. Arenas would be the type of dude to talk up a new deal at the corner gas station, and break the news to some random store owner with a camera phone. Apparently, that actually happened. Some news outlets are reporting the man formerly known as Agent Zero told a couple of guys at a gas station that he was getting back into the league with either the Clippers or the Lakers. Even though this has virtually no chance of being true, it would be pretty cool to see Arenas rock one of his hometown jerseys, and it actually kind of makes sense for the Lakers now that Steve Blake went one-on-one with a parking lot and lost. It’s just too bad that in Memphis, Arenas looked like someone who had spent way too much time in the wilderness. No one is going to sign him after that … Dwight Howard is back. Sort of. Footage hit the net yesterday of Superman 2.0 working out at L.A.’s practice facility. He wasn’t exactly sweating profusely, but even with a limit on how hard he was going to work, the big man looks pretty good. He has a nice little Dream Shake, and a decent left-handed jump hook. Now that he has step one out of the way – scoring on assistant coach Darvin Ham – he can move to the next thing on the checklist … Ian Begley is reporting the Knicks are still interested in Josh Howard. This is probably the sixth or seventh consecutive week we’ve heard these rumors, so we’re not sure what’s going on in Manhattan. Maybe they’re deliberating over whether or not Howard meets their age restrictions? Remember, he’s only 32 … And do you recall Darrell Arthur? He was a spark plug off the bench for Memphis during their 2011 playoff run before missing all of last season due to a ruptured Achilles. Now he’s back and guess what? HOOPSWORLD is reporting he suffered a non-displaced leg fracture during a pickup game. This dude has worse luck than Heidi Montag‘s face. At least, he can be thankful for this: it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been and he could be back in time for the start of the regular season … Keep reading to hear what a former Chicago player said about Portland’s best player …

Once you get to a certain level of superstardom and celebrity, it becomes very hard to evaluate the top players. Too many have legions of unwavering fans, while others develop hater viruses that spread like wildfire. As we wrote in yesterday’s Smack, Blake Griffin is one of the best players in the league. But he’s no longer “underground,” in a sense. It’s almost like the sneaker culture. If you’re hyping up Quake, you’re a hypebeast. But if you know LaMarcus Aldridge averaged nearly 22 and eight last year, and is one of the league’s most difficult matches? Then you’re one of the “cool” kids. We don’t think TNT’s Steve Kerr cares about hypebeasts, but he’s still heaping a whole lotta praise on Portland’s finest. In an interview posted to NBA.com, Kerr called LA one of the best players in the league, in part because, as a power forward, he has “everything.” Aldridge is somewhat unknown based off how much Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki get talked about, and he did make his first career All-Star Game last year. It comes down to what “one of the best” really means. Is he one of the best like Griffin, who will make the All-Star Game every year from now until one of his knees blows up? Is he one of the best like Love, who’s going to be throwing up 20/20 games for the next decade? We love watching Aldridge play. He’s an incredible shooter. He was fourth in the entire league in makes from 16-23 feet (only Kobe, Dirk and Kevin Garnett made more). He has that swipe move in the post that he obviously stole from Tim Duncan, and it seems to work every time. He makes big shots. He always plays hard. He’s not an idiot. Aldridge is a legitimate All-Star player. But we still need to see more before he’s considered one of the best in the game. First, he needs to rebound more. Eight a night isn’t enough, not when Love and Griffin are getting those numbers in a quarter. And secondly, he must be more physical – especially defensively. The Blazers follow him now, and whether they’re in the playoff picture this year will come down to how much he improved during the offseason (we can’t help but imagine how much playing on Team USA would’ve helped him). Portland is already saying they’ll open training camp with their starting five intact – Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum, Aldridge and J.J. Hickson. How good can they be? … And yesterday, we dropped another gem from the new issue: the 10 best basketball ad campaigns since the turn of the century. Some of these were forgotten through the years, and we have no idea how … We’re out like Smoove’s new deal.

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