In a somewhat surprising turn of events, rookie Zhaire Smith has been recalled from the Delaware Blue Coats and will be available for the Sixers on Tuesday night vs. the Cavs.
As of March 5, Smith said the plan was that he'd play the remainder of the season with the Blue Coats.
Yet head coach Brett Brown told reporters on Tuesday night that the Sixers wanted to "give [Smith] a taste of the NBA." Brown said he wasn't sure whether Smith would make his NBA debut against Cleveland.
The 19-year-old Smith was acquired by the Sixers along with Miami's 2021 unprotected first-round pick on draft night in exchange for Mikal Bridges. He suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot in August, then had severe medical complications from an allergic reaction in September. Listed at 199 pounds in the Sixers' media guide, the 6-foot-4 Smith said he was, at one point, as low as 164 pounds. Smith, a "freaky" athletic guard with the potential to be an excellent NBA defender, resumed working on his game as soon as he could.
"I went to the gym," he said on March 5. "Tube in my stomach and all, I was in the gym shooting."
During that period, the form on Smith's jumper changed. He's now releasing the ball on the right side of his body as opposed to over the top of his head. Though he says his shot feels comfortable, Smith went 0 for 5 from three-point range in four G-League games. He's averaged 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists with the Blue Coats.
"That just came naturally when I lost all that weight," Smith said of his new form. "When I hit the gym for the first time, right when I put it up, it was just right there. It's just been there ever since - it just came natural. I didn't really put it there. It came there alone, by itself."
Regardless of whether Smith's jumper is effective, it's possible his perimeter defense could be an immediate asset for the Sixers, though not likely.
Brown said he's not expecting Smith to help the Sixers this year, but "could it happen? Who knows."
James Ennis III has played well recently, gaining an edge in "the tournament" for wing minutes off the bench. Jonathon Simmons is another veteran, defensive-minded wing option the Sixers would likely prefer over Smith at the moment.
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