Or are they.
Smith is currently nursing a sprained right ankle, and according to Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, his return is uncertain:
Josh Smith, who missed Sunday’s game with a sprained right ankle, did not practice Monday but worked on the side with the team’s training staff. Drew said Smith did some shooting. Drew did not know whether Smith could return for Wednesday’s home game against the Pacers, calling the forward day-to-day.
Though there is no set date for Smith’s eventual return, Hawks fans can take solace in the reality that it is just a sprain and that their free-agent-to-be should return soon enough.
But until then, Atlanta is in the capable hands of Al Horford, a crafty big man who can lead this team in the interim.
After the Hawks dealt Joe Johnson away, there were plenty of people left wondering whether they were even a playoff caliber team. And then, immediately after Smith went down, there was some serious doubt as to whether this team could keep their head above water at all without him.
Well, if the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder taught us anything, it’s that Atlanta can survive without Smith.
Horford led the charge, propelling the Hawks to victory with a double-double. Most impressively, though, this win came on the Thunder’s turf, in Oklahoma City, where the fans are loyal to their team, but brutal to others.
And that’s huge.
It’s not just that Horford put up 23 points and 12 rebounds, or the fact that Lou Williams chipped in 19 points of his own. It’s that this team was resilient enough, determined enough to not put its head down.
Even without Smith, the Hawks looked like a playoff team. Did they take advantage of a Thunder team currently in flux, an entity that is still adjusting to life without James Harden?
Most definitely, but even in turmoil, Oklahoma City is still a contender, still a team that was expected to trounce the Smith-less Hawks.
But they didn’t. Because Horford and company wouldn’t let them.
Yes, it was only one game and yes, there will be tougher games to come, especially if Smith winds up missing an extended amount of time. Yet even so, this is something for Atlanta to get excited about, to read into; it’s a tell-tale sign of how deep this team actually is.
I mean, if the Hawks can beat the Thunder on their homecourt without Smith, just imagine what they could do with him.
So don’t count the Hawks. Not yet.
They’ll be able to hold the fort down in Smith’s absence and make a postseason-worthy run long after he returns.
And who knows, maybe they’ll even make it out of the second-round this time around.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.