“We value Josh,” Ferry said of the Cobb County native, who played one season at Whitefield Academy and two at McEachern.
It wasn’t the only time Ferry used those words. Smith, 6-foot-9 forward who leads the team in scoring, is an important defender with his steals and blocks, contributes big in assists and rebounds but will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Ferry confirmed the Hawks entertained offers for Smith leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline. Ferry ultimately preferred to keep Smith even while accepting the risk he could lose the 27-year-old forward in free agency with no return for the team.
“We weighed the positives and negatives of each of our opportunities and at the end of the day we felt like the best decision was to stand pat based off some of the things we were looking at,” Ferry said.
The Hawks made two other moves. The team traded guard Anthony Morrow to the Dallas Mavericks for guard-forward Dahntay Jones. Atlanta also acquired backup center Jeremy Tyler from Golden State as the Warriors moved to escape the luxury tax.
Smith participated in the Hawks’ practice Thursday morning. He said he wasn’t the only player who was thinking about the trade deadline.
“I’m pretty sure it was going through everybody’s heads, not just myself,” Smith said. “There are a lot of guys who feel like they might get traded, too. It’s not just me. It’s a tough process.”
After hearing his name in trade rumors for weeks, Smith said he had difficulty sleeping following Wednesday night’s loss to the Miami Heat.
Ultimately, Smith said he was comfortable remaining with the Hawks or being traded.
“It’s not all that bad,” Smith said. “I’m playing my dream job. I’m just blessed with the opportunity to be able to be a part of a special time. A lot of guys came through this league and played for the Hawks and other teams that I grew up idolizing, so it’s definitely a blessing just to be here.”
Smith leads Atlanta with his averages of 17.1 points and 2.1 blocks per game. He is second on the team with 8.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
Smith set career highs with his averages of 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds last season. He has said he may ask for a maximum contract as a free agent. The Hawks could offer five years and about $94 million, while other teams could offer up to about $70 million for four years.
“Right now it’s not up to me where I go or what happens,” Smith said Thursday. “In the summertime I do have the flexibility to be able to make my own decision. It’s going to be my first time being an unrestricted free agent. Being able to see what’s out there.
“Like I say, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I just have to focus on where I’m at right now and not worry about it.”
Ferry shed two big contracts before the season when he traded guard Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets and forward Marvin Williams to Utah.
Those trades created cap space that helped make it easier for Ferry to decide against dealing Smith.
“We were in an unusual situation where Josh’s contract, our cap space and flexibility going forward, having a good team right now, there were a lot of factors that played into this,” Ferry said. “I think the main factor is we value Josh. I think he’s been important to our group this year and we can finish the year strong and hopefully we play well and we’re a solid playoff team.”
The Hawks (29-23) are sixth in the Eastern Conference. They play the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
The Hawks will have only three players under contract for the 2013-14 season: center Al Horford, rookie guard John Jenkins and veteran guard Lou Williams, who is returning from knee surgery.
The team will have the ability to re-sign point guard Jeff Teague and backup forward Ivan Johnson, who will be restricted free agents.
Atlanta acquired Morrow from Brooklyn in the trade that sent Joe Johnson to the Nets. Morrow, slowed by right hip and back injuries, averaged 5.2 points in only 24 games with the Hawks.
Jones (6-6, 215) gives the Hawks a strong wing defender. He has averaged 3.5 points in 50 games, including 15 starts. His contract expires at the end of the season.
“We can put more physical bodies on the wing so we can be a more balanced mix,” Ferry said. “(Thursday) was a good opportunity for us, good for us and I think good for Dahntay. Hopefully it puts him in a situation where he can play.”
Jones averaged a career-best 10.2 points with Indiana in the 2009-10 season.
Tyler (6-10, 260) has averaged only 1.1 points in 20 games this season with Golden State. He averaged 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie last season.
The Hawks said Tyler was acquired for cash considerations and future draft considerations.