Updated: February 21, 2013, 3:11 AM ET

1. Last ATL Flight? Josh Smith Carries That Wait

By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Josh Smith laced up his boots, wiped the sweat off his forehead with an NBA-logoed hand towel and threw it in the team hamper as he made his way toward the exit of the Atlanta Hawks' locker room.

But before Smith passed through the door, a long-time local journalist stopped him, reaching out his hand to bid the 6-foot-9 forward goodbye with a handshake. Smith smiled, gave his thanks and strolled through the door.

Was that it? The last time Josh Smith left Philips Arena as a member of the Atlanta Hawks?

"We'll see," Smith said in cryptic tone to a group of reporters just minutes before. "Thursday, 3 o'clock."

Josh Smith, LeBron James
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsJosh Smith might have faced LeBron for the last time in a Hawks uniform.

Thursday's trade deadline can't come soon enough for Smith and the Hawks after dropping a 103-90 game to the defending champion Miami Heat. The rumor mill has smothered this team for weeks, if not years, endlessly speculating when Smith had played his last game for the franchise -- the same one that selected him nearly a decade ago with the 17th pick in the 2004 draft.

There was no ceremonious send-off from the Atlanta crowd. In fact, a loud "Let's go Heat" chant broke out at one point. No standing ovation as he exited the game late in the fourth quarter. It seemed like just another game for Smith in this building, just one of 327 career outings in Philips Arena.

When Smith spoke after the game, he gave no hints about what his future holds. But it wasn't lost on the surrounding group of reporters that Smith spoke as if he played his final game in a Hawks uniform.

"This organization gave me so much over the years," Smith said. "They gave me a chance to [live] my dream ... We've had a lot of successful seasons, some emotional playoff runs. It's a lot of positives. I understand it's a business so whatever happens, happens. No love lost."

You could say Smith delivered a signature Josh Smith outing. He registered a near-triple-double, tallying 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. In line with Smith tradition, he put together a series of high-flying dunks that made the Atlanta home crowd forget for just a moment that he also took eight jumpers and missed seven of them.

Smith's contract expires at the end of the season and his name has dominated the talks ahead of Thursday's afternoon deadline. There's a reason everyone wants to know where he will be playing on Friday, when the Hawks face the Kings. Smith is averaging 17.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game this season along with 2.1 blocks. He's the only player in the league to match that line since Kevin Garnett did in 2003-04.

But his near triple-double performance on Wednesday wasn't enough for the Hawks. Neither was Al Horford's 27 points and nine rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. They couldn't pull off the home win even though Chris Bosh hit his first shot from the floor with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Why? Because LeBron James and Ray Allen happened. Down 10 points heading into the final frame, the Heat crushed the Hawks in the fourth quarter, scoring 40 points to the Hawks' 17. James finished with 24 points, 11 assists and six rebounds on the night with eight of his assists coming in the fourth quarter. Drive and kick. Drive and kick. Allen finished the fourth quarter with 13 points, just four shy of the entire Hawks team.

It was hard not to contrast the Hawks, who are embroiled in trade talks, and the rolling Heat, who arguably haven't looked more complete after their eighth win in a row. There's a reason you haven't heard trade rumors trailing the Heat. In reality, they already made their big acquisitions in Shane Battier (17 points on Thursday) two offseasons ago and Allen this past offseason.

"There's only a few players who can play at the athletic level that LeBron can, and [Smith] is one of them," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's underrated as a passer, as a facilitator. He's a heck of a talent. We've had our battles over the years."

If this ends up being Smith's final game as a Hawk, he leaves Atlanta with a career 302-325 record in seven seasons, but a playoff appearance in each of his last five seasons. However, he has never led the Hawks to the Eastern Conference finals during his up-and-down tenure with the team. Will he get one last shot this season, or will the Hawks trade him just like they did with Joe Johnson in the offseason?

"We'll have to wait," Smith said, "and see what happens."

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