Denton: Ish Returns, Magic Have Backup PG
By John Denton
August 15, 2012
ORLANDO -- When he boarded a red-eye flight and flew all night last February to get from Los Angeles to Orlando, Ish Smith hoped that his playing career would finally have some sticking power with the Magic.
As it turns out, the cat-quick point guard impressed the Magic enough last season and this summer to earn himself a second year in Orlando.
Smith, who quickly became a fan favorite last season with his fearlessness and hustle, signed a contract with the Magic on Wednesday that virtually assures him a spot on the roster next season.
``Everybody has a place and hopefully I can make Orlando my place for a while,’’ Smith said on Wednesday. ``I’m truly blessed and I’d like to thank God for the opportunity I have been given here. The opportunity that I was able to get (last season) is a big reason why I was able to get this deal.’’
Smith will likely be the backup point guard to team captain Jameer Nelson, who also re-signed with the Magic in mid-July. Last season’s primary point guard backup, Chris Duhon, was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of the four-team, 12-player blockbuster trade. That opened up a slot for Smith, 24. Magic GM Rob Hennigan has said that he’d still like to add another point guard so that the team goes into training camp (beginning Oct. 1) with three point guards.
Smith, a 6-foot, 175-pound point guard, has played for Houston, Memphis, Golden State and Orlando. Just as Smith was set to begin a stint in the NBA’s Developmental League last February, the Magic signed him to fill in as Nelson was injured and Duhon was struggling at point guard.
Smith was usually one of the first Magic players to arrive at the arena last season before games, working out vigorously for more than an hour with former Magic assistant coach Brendan Malone. He continued those drills this summer with Magic player development coach Mark Price in an attempt to better his jump shot and accuracy on floaters in the lane.
``I’ve been in the gym a lot working out and working hard,’’ he said. ``Obviously I worked with Coach Malone last year the whole season and I’ve tried to carry that over to the summer. I’ve worked this summer with one of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA in Coach Price, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement. So I’ve been blessed.’’
In 20 appearances with the Magic last season, Smith averaged 2.3 points, 1.6 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 8.6 minutes per game. Smith also played in one playoff game, grabbing one rebound and blocking a shot in five minutes.
Smith led or tied the Magic in assists twice last season. He handed out a career-high-tying seven assists on Apr. 9 versus the Detroit Pistons. Smith also recorded a career-high-tying three steals in that same game against Detroit.
``I don’t know half of the things that I do out there on the court. I just go out and play without thinking. I think it’s the speed that I bring to the game offensively and defensively. And I’m a guy who is going to go out there and play as hard as I can every night.’’
Smith was slated to play for the Magic’s summer league squad in July, but was held out because of an injury. He was remained in Orlando much of the summer, working out at the team’s facility along with many of his Magic teammates.
Smith went undrafted in 2010 following a stellar career at Wake Forest, but signed with Houston following an impressive summer league showing. He spent the 2010-11 season with the Rockets (28 games) and Grizzlies (15 games). And he spent the 2011-12 season with the Warriors (six games) and Magic (20 games). In 69 career NBA regular season games Smith has averaged 2.5 points, 1.7 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game.
Smith was close friends with former Magic center Dwight Howard, and he said he wished the all-star well in Los Angeles. Smith said the Magic will still have plenty of fight in them this season.
``It’s a new beginning for us here and we’re starting something from the ground up,’’ Smith said. ``I would like to think even though people say that we’re rebuilding that we’re going to work hard and play hard and win as many games as we can. Some might say we’re rebuilding, but I think we might surprise some people.’’
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