Sixers guard Zhaire Smith will not travel to Disney World for the resumption of the NBA’s season, according to the team.
Smith has a bone bruise in his left knee. He was experiencing pain in the knee prior to the Sixers resuming workouts last week. He’s expected to make a full recovery.
A first-round pick in 2018, Smith missed most of his rookie season after suffering a Jones fracture in his foot and then dealing with a serious allergic reaction. He’s played in just 13 career NBA games, including seven this season. It seemed unlikely that he'd see meaningful minutes in the eight seeding games or playoffs.
Smith spent the bulk of the year playing in the G-League for the Delaware Blue Coats. The athletic 21-year-old showed signs of improvement. He averaged 13.5 points and hit 37.6 percent of his threes in 28 games with the Blue Coats.
Since Smith will be out because of injury and not because of a positive COVID-19 test or opting out of playing, the Sixers will not be able to make a corresponding roster move.
Ben Simmons appears comfortable with the public knowing that he’s been working on his jump shot during the NBA’s hiatus.
After the Sixers included Simmons making a three-pointer in a video package from a recent practice, the 23-year-old released a YouTube video on Wednesday that shows the workouts he did in Los Angeles with trainer Chris Johnson ahead of the league’s restart. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make appearances.
Simmons shoots plenty of jump shots in the video — turnarounds in the post, mid-range pull-ups, catch-and-shoot threes. Johnson has Simmons put on shooting gloves for some of the drills.
There’s one exchange with the Pistons’ Tony Snell, at around the 5:18 mark of the video, that possibly teases Simmons’ intent to attempt more jumpers when play resumes.
Snell: You should be shooting way more. Your shot looks good.
Snell: Orlando? I’ll be watching.
Simmons: I’m coming for it.
We don’t need to remind Sixers fans that Simmons has yet to be a remotely regular or effective NBA jump shooter. The two-time All-Star has made the first two three-pointers of his professional career this season and is 6 for 34 overall from 10 feet and out. He'd said in September, "If it's open, I'll take it" when asked about the prospect of taking threes this season, an attitude that did not materialize in games.
This video of him sinking shots in a non-game setting is not necessarily a sign he’ll be primed to fire at Disney World, but the fact that he’s put the footage out there for all to see is at least notable. Of course, there were also plenty of videos last summer of him draining jumpers. He’s had an excellent all-around season and is one of the league’s best defenders, but the jump shot has still been miles behind the other areas of his game.
“You've just gotta work with different things,” he said. “You’ve gotta try different things out, see if they work. We’re not at a stage where we can be comfortable yet. I’m still trying to figure it out myself ... what feels comfortable, what’s right for this team and how we’re gonna win.
“If it’s this way, then I’m all for it. I’ve been having fun in that position — whatever you guys say, the four — whatever it is. But at the end of the day, when you see me I’m on the floor, I’m making plays.
Hearing the Sixers describe their early days inside the NBA’s “bubble” at Disney World, it sounds something like living inside a reality television show.
The team is isolated from the outside world and preparing to perform for the general public’s entertainment. In their downtime, many players have felt as if they’re at summer camp, not an environment created in response to a pandemic. They’re taking part in approved recreational activities while making sure to adhere to the league’s many health and safety regulations. Fishing has been an option some players have enjoyed.
“The fishing conditions are very good, a lot of largemouth bass,” Ben Simmons said Monday in a video conference call. “I fish a lot so this is what I do every day. I work out, play some video games and fish, so that’s my day-to-day routine. But overall I think everyone is just doing something to be productive in some sort of aspect.
“I think guys are enjoying it. Myself, personally, I’m just having a good time, getting ready for the games coming up and using the free time to just do something that I enjoy doing. So it’s been good.”
Monday, ESPN reported that the Rockets' Bruno Caboclo unintentionally broke quarantine, while former Sixer Richaun Holmes tweeted that he accidentally breached the bubble to pick up a food delivery. Both players were subject to extended time in quarantine. The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Monday that multiple tips have been made to the NBA's anonymous hotline to report protocol violations.
At least initially, Brett Brown thought his players were doing a good job of following all precautions.
“How are the players responding? Well," Brown said Sunday. “Do I think it can be maintained? I do, as far as the discipline. We all worry about the virus, in some capacity, sneaking it. But I tell you what, full credit to the NBA for creating this environment, and credit to the players for being — albeit (in early days) — disciplined to do the things that they have asked us to do.”
Rookie Matisse Thybulle’s video series on life in the bubble has provided a look at this unusual existence for players. Thybulle is showing fans everything from testing procedures to practice banter to a masked general manager Elton Brand sinking a jumper.
“He didn’t get clearance to put me on,” Simmons said with a smile. “I’m going to have to speak to him if he makes any money off it. But I love it, I love that he’s capturing this moment. It’s a historic moment for sports in general. I think what he’s been doing has been great.”
It’s excellent insight from Thybulle into a situation nobody has ever come close to experiencing before. His two videos thus far have totaled over 500,000 views on YouTube, so Simmons may be wise to renegotiate a royalty agreement.
On a more serious note, Mike Scott on Monday summed up life in the bubble well. He has no complaints.
“I just know how to adapt to situations I’m in,” he said. “It’s not that bad. The hotel room is good, food is solid. It’s just basketball after that. It feels like camp, like a basketball camp. You go from your room to the court from the court to your room, see some players here and there, but for the most part, I’m not really tripping. It’s straight, it’s cool.”