One Shot, Months in the Making
Removed from the micro of Monday’s match-up with the Orlando Magic, there was a moment that carried plenty of positive macro significance.
It was a moment born from both the power of individual resilience and collective support, for certain a silver lining to an otherwise difficult night.
On the heels of an adversity-filled stretch that began seven months ago with an off-season foot injury, Zhaire Smith made his NBA debut in the latter stages of the 76ers’ loss at Amway Center.
He subbed in with 5:34 remaining in regulation, and two trips down the floor later, nailed a straightaway catch-and-shoot 3-pointer for his first career field goal on his first career attempt.
In the context of this particular story, the score at that point was irrelevant. It was all about the 19-year old Smith getting on the court, and having the chance to do something, anything with a basketball.
“I just have been working on that my whole life,” Smith said, referring to his perimeter jumper.
Smith linked up with the Sixers in Orlando over the weekend after the Delaware Blue Coats’ season came to an end on Saturday. He had been on assignment in the G League since late January.
Jimmy Butler said the Sixers were happy to have Smith in the mix.
“We love to see everybody be successful,” the four-time All-Star said. “He has been working on his game and it is showing. I think that is the number one thing.”
Smith appeared in 11 games for the Blue Coats, five of which were starts. In all, he averaged 7.2 points (41.0 fg%), 3.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, in 22.6 minutes per game.
Smith added a rebound and a steal Monday, too.
“We want him to continue to have the utmost confidence and know he is a part of this team, he is a pro, and we can’t wait to have him up here full-time,” said Butler, before correcting himself. “Well, I think we have him now, so we are good.”
The Sixers acquired Smith, the 2018 no. 16 pick, in a draft day trade with the Phoenix Suns. He played one season at Texas Tech.
"He has fought," said Brett Brown. "He has not hung his head. He has continued to put in work and perseverence. To see him in a uniform playing again for us, I think, is a feel-good story."