5 Sixers summer league observations: Zhaire Smith shows flashes of brilliance in loss to Lakers

5 Sixers summer league observations: Zhaire Smith shows flashes of brilliance in loss to Lakers

If you stayed up into the early hours of Sunday morning on the East Coast to watch the Sixers take on the Lakers in their second MGM Resorts Summer League game, you got to see a number of incredible highlight-reel plays from Zhaire Smith.

However, you didn’t get to see much in the way of outside shooting. The Sixers shot just 38.3 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 29 three-pointers in a 96-79 loss to the Lakers.

Here are five observations from the Sixers’ defeat:

1. Friday night wasn’t a bad debut for Smith, but he showed lot more of why the Sixers think he could eventually be a special player against the Lakers. 

Smith scored his first basket of the night on a nice pump fake and drive to the rim for an authoritative dunk. 

Later in the first quarter, Smith made an impressive play in transition, attacking the lane and dropping off a no-look pass to Cameron Oliver for a dunk. 

At the start of the second, Smith found Oliver again after getting the fast break started with a steal, and Oliver’s dunk was high on style points.

Smith vs. Villanova product Josh Hart was a fun matchup to watch. Hart has a full season of NBA experience, but Smith held his own. Overall, Smith defended well, although he did get caught up on a couple screens.

Hart looked like the best player on the floor, showcasing his versatile offensive game. He finished with 24 points, most of it against defenders other than Smith. 

While it will continue to take time for Smith to get comfortable on the wing, he cuts well off the ball and seems to have a good feel for how to fit in an offense. The Sixers made a concerted effort to involve Smith more offensively. 

“We're trying to get him to be as aggressive as he can," Sixers summer league head coach Kevin Young told reporters after the game. "Especially with Shamet going out, there's more opportunity for someone to be that offensive guy. I don't think it's innately in his DNA, but this is a great environment for him to explore that."

In the second half, Smith forced a few shots and missed a couple open three-pointers. But he kept making incredibly athletic plays, throwing down a putback dunk, slamming in a lob off a baseline out-of bounds play and converting an and-one with a smart cut to the rim and strong finish. 

The hang time on the lob was absolutely ridiculous.

He scored a team-high 16 points, shooting 6 for 13 from the floor and 3 for 3 at the foul line, with three assists and three steals. 

"First one I might be a little nervous," Smith said after the game, "but this game I was relaxed. Talked to Coach [Brett] Brown. He said I played like a 'C' last game, try to get to a 'B.' I did good last game but just do better and be relaxed, play like yourself. It's the summer league; you're going to get better and you're going to learn." 

Smith probably won’t have many (if any) plays called for him in the regular season, so it will be important for him to contribute as a cutter, offensive rebounder and three-point shooter. 

2. Furkan Korkmaz couldn’t do it again. The night after his incredible 40-point performance against the Celtics, Korkmaz struggled to find that same shooting stroke against the Lakers. He had four points, shooting 1 for 9 overall and 0 for 7 from long range.

He missed an open three-pointer from the right wing on the Sixers’ first possession, and that set the tone. To be fair to Korkmaz, the Sixers’ offense didn’t generate many open looks for him, so he had to try to create scoring opportunities on his own. 

"In the game, I wasn't feeling good, wasn't feeling in shape," Korkmaz said. "It was back-to-back games. Everybody was focused but sometimes you are making shots, sometimes you are missing. Today was maybe one of my worst games." 

Can Korkmaz earn a spot in the rotation? He obviously shouldn’t be judged solely on this rough outing or on his offensive explosion Friday night. But he’ll have another opportunity to impress Brett Brown and make a case for earning minutes off the bench in the Sixers’ next contest Monday night against the Wizards at 5:30 p.m (NBCSP+).

3. Like in the first game, it was a mixed bag from Jonah Bolden. On a positive note, he seemed comfortable grabbing rebounds and quickly looking up-court to start fast breaks. 

But Bolden couldn’t ever assert his will on the game. He’s 3 for 10 from the floor overall in summer league. A second quarter air ball from long range was a low moment. Just like last summer, there’s a lot to like about his game, but it also seems rough around the edges. He's said he plans on playing for the Sixers this season, but you'd think the team would feel a lot better about the idea of bringing him over if his game was more refined.

Bolden had five points, four rebounds and three steals in 23 minutes.

4. The Sixers’ offense was not the prettiest thing to watch, which you expect in the second game of summer league. 

Down 17 early in the third quarter, the Sixers found a little more of a rhythm to avoid being completely blown off the floor, though the Lakers extended their lead late after the Sixers cut it to single-digits at one stage. Demetrius Jackson had a couple strong drives to the hoop in the second half, while Askia Booker had nine points on 4 for 11 shooting after going scoreless against Boston. 

Oliver was another bright spot, posting 12 points and eight rebounds. 

5. It’s a shame for the Sixers that Landry Shamet’s summer league campaign was cut short by a right ankle injury (see story). You sense that Shamet, a smart playmaker at Wichita, could’ve helped get the Sixers’ offense flowing.

It also just would’ve been great to experiment more playing Shamet both on and off-ball. For Shamet, it’s a missed opportunity to acclimate to the increased physicality of the NBA and start to find his niche at the next level, although he said he can still gain something from his summer league experience. 

"Just watching and learning," Shamet said. "I've been in this situation before where I've had to watch with my foot injuries. There's a lot of information still to be taken in, lot of learning. That'll be no problem, it'll just be something where I continue to take information in." 

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Kobe Bryant tributes appear all across the globe from France to the Philippines to the Grammy Awards


Kobe Bryant tributes appear all across the globe from France to the Philippines to the Grammy Awards

The tragic news of the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others was felt all across the world on Sunday.

From where Bryant played high school basketball right here in Philadelphia to the stage at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and elsewhere all the way across the world in France, Australia, and the Philippines, those who Kobe influenced found ways to honor his life and legacy in their own way.

One of the more unique and fitting tributes came to start Sunday night's game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Boston Celtics, when both teams held the ball and allowed the 24-second shot clock to expire in honor of No. 24. Chants of "Kobe! Kobe!" also broke out.

Neymar, one of the greatest soccer players in the world and a fellow Nike athlete, flashed Kobe's No. 24 after scoring a goal on Sunday in France and pointed to the sky instead of celebrating.

The Atlanta Hawks' Trae Young wore No. 8 to honor Kobe's other number to begin the game last night. He also went on a scoring tear and did something no NBA player had done since Kobe himself.

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios warmed up for his match at the Australian Open while wearing a Kobe jersey.

Kobe's influence was global as demonstrated by this mural with his daughter Gigi in Manila in the Phillipines.

The 62nd Grammy Awards took place as scheduled last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as artists and fans all mourned. Host Alicia Keys honored Kobe with the help of Philadelphia's Boyz II Men when they sang "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" during the ceremony.

There was even a makeshift tribute in unexpected places like the subway station for Bryant Park in New York.

Elsewhere in New York City, Madison Square Garden was lit in Lakers' purple and yellow last night.

The NFL Pro Bowlers, including the Eagles' Fletcher Cox, showed their Kobe love with a jab-step-fadeaway celebration during the game in Orlando, Florida.

Down in Miami they do a tribute as only Miami can.

And finally, where it all started for Kobe at Lower Merion to pay their respects to the greatest basketball player to ever walk through their doors.

Marc Jackson tearfully remembers his friend Kobe Bryant

Marc Jackson tearfully remembers his friend Kobe Bryant

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Jackson knew Kobe Bryant during his early days in Philadelphia, when the two were working toward their grand NBA dreams.

On Sunday evening, after the sudden, tragic death of Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash (see story), Jackson discussed how he learned of Bryant's passing, and recounted some of his fondest memories from his time training with Bryant when they were kids.

"It's just a shame. It's a bad day. It's a very horrible day, not just in sports but in life," Jackson said. "Because this guy — this guy, from the very first moment I met him. He's a day off the plane from Italy, and we're working out with John Arnett, he was 12 at the time. I was 15, 16. We're working out at Temple, he's this 12-year-old lanky kid. We finished working out, it must've been about two, three hours, and afterwards he got ice on his knees. I said, 'What are you doing, getting ice on your knees?' He's like, 'I'm trying to have a long career.' He was 12 and I was 15, and I remember looking at him and laughing, like, 'That's interesting.' 

"And I'll never forget the time when he was getting ready to make a decision about whether he was going to college or the NBA. We were working out of Temple. He had this thing called 'Crown,' where he was trying to dunk on you, and he'd say he was going to 'Crown' you. That stuff just started going through my head.

"Now I'm just thinking about his wife and his children, and I'm thinking about his mother Pam, and I'm thinking about Coach Joe, who was one of my first coaches when I first started playing the game. I'm looking at that and thinking about that, and then I just have 1,100 emails, texts, and phone calls, in a matter of hours. It's just to say, he's a very important person."

You can listen to Jackson talk more about Bryant in the video above.