76ers

Zhaire Smith is 'a pogo stick,' hammering home advantages, more from Day 3 of Sixers training camp

Zhaire Smith is 'a pogo stick,' hammering home advantages, more from Day 3 of Sixers training camp

CAMDEN, N.J. — The 2019-20 Sixers play in front of their fans for the first time in two days, when the team will hold its annual Blue X White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware.

For now, the scrimmaging is mostly happening behind closed doors — unlike Wednesday, the media wasn’t permitted to watch any 5-on-5 action Thursday at Day 3 of training camp, just some individual shooting drills at the end of practice. 

Here are a couple of notes from Day 3: 

The ‘pogo stick’ jumps out 

Zhaire Smith started out as “just a skinny kid who could really, really jump,” his high school coach, JT Locklear, told NBC Sports Philadelphia in June.

Landry Shamet called him a “freak athlete” after a few days at summer league minicamp last July.

Josh Richardson recalled Wednesday that Smith had a block where he “came out of nowhere.”

Brett Brown, though, might have had the best description yet Thursday of the 20-year-old Smith.

Just a pogo stick. … You know, he had one or two plays today where you’re like, OK, just an incredibly gifted athlete. He's making some shots, he's playing hard. I think we're all going to enjoy, you know, how this plays out with Shake [Milton] and Furkan [Korkmaz] and Matisse [Thybulle] and Zhaire — that's an interesting group. And you know, when you talk about the young guys, I think that he's had a real bounce and has been excellent. Defensively, especially.

In May, Brown labeled Smith’s shot as “the thing that ultimately makes his package whole.”

It was interesting that Al Horford, instead of turning to Smith’s defense or athleticism when asked his thoughts on the 2018 first-round pick, first highlighted Smith’s jumper.

“He’s really shooting the ball well and that’s something that’s impressed me,” Horford said. “Probably coming into the league he wasn’t labeled as a shooter, but from what I’ve seen he’s shooting the ball really well, and that’s encouraging.”

Smith, with the assistance of Sixers player development coach Tyler Lashbrook, has done extensive work on his jumper after a rookie year that contained injury, a severe, terrifying allergic reaction and a grind behind the scenes to eventually return to the floor. 

The focus with his shot, Smith said, is “just the little things, not bringing it down and getting it off quicker.”

Here’s what it looked like Thursday:

We’ll surely have opportunities down the road to dissect the other names Brown included as part of the competition for bench minutes on the wing, but it’s worth noting Brown has consistently included Korkmaz. 

The third-year Turkish player said at media day he’d cut his body fat from as high as the 13-14 percent range to around 8 to 9 percent. Legitimate questions exist about whether Korkmaz can play passable defense, but Brown seems to find the outside shooting Korkmaz can theoretically provide appealing, and he praised the “swagger” he played with last season.

The 22-year-old averaged 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 2018-19, shooting 32.6 percent from three-point range. You’d assume he’d have to increase that percentage significantly to earn a rotation spot.  

‘How are they going to match up versus us?’

“Arrogant” is far from the first word that comes to mind when you think of Tobias Harris or Horford. Both players, however, had answers that were high on confidence when asked how they expect opponents will approach playing against the Sixers’ starting forwards, who stand at 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10, respectively. 

“I always say this: How are they going to match up versus us? Whoever’s out there, at the end of the day, they gotta match up versus us first,” Harris said. “We kind of are a team with our size, our skill and ability that can control the narrative on a lot of things that we want to do. Obviously there will be a lot of different schemes, playing teams that go small. They gotta guard us, also.”

At first, it appeared Horford was going to effortlessly deflect the question. He talked a bit about his focus being on learning the Sixers’ terminology and concepts, and said he felt “kind of like a rookie a little bit” with all the new information he was having to process. 

Then, Horford added, “Teams are going to have to do something, that’s for sure.”

Concerns about how the Sixers will cope with quickness disadvantages or what they’ll do to adjust when Harris or Horford face a difficult matchup defensively are valid. Still, it sounds like the Sixers recognize they have plenty that should concern opponents and are determined to hammer home their advantages.

Random observation: As Brown was walking over to meet with the media, Ben Simmons drained a half-court shot. His jumper was a popular topic Thursday (see story).



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Watch Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade share vulnerable All-Star moment over Kobe

Watch Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade share vulnerable All-Star moment over Kobe

A huge portion of the weekend's NBA All-Star Game was dedicated to remembering Lakers legend and Philly-area native Kobe Bryant, from the touching pre-game tribute to the players' jersey numbers.

There were plenty of Bryant jerseys among the weekend's attendees, too, including Sixers legend Allen Iverson, who sported a No. 8 yellow Bryant jersey during Sunday's All-Star Game.

Iverson was interacting with some fans at the United Center in Chicago when he bumped into Dwyane Wade, and the two shared a beautifully unscripted, vulnerable moment. Incredibly, one fan captured the scene, and video of the two legends' interaction surfaced Tuesday afternoon:

That's something special.

Wade and Iverson's NBA careers overlapped for seven years, including six shared All-Star Games. Bryant entered the league the same year as Iverson, and Wade made his final All-Star Game the year Bryant retired.

The three spent so much shared time in the league, creating their own stories and navigating their own paths, and it's an absolute tragedy that Bryant wasn't in Chicago this past weekend to enjoy yet another show from the league's stars.

Moments like this one help remind fans that, while players like Bryant, Wade, and Iverson often seem superhuman, they're ultimately people like us, and they process grief just like we do.

Good on Wade and Iverson for being there for each other.

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Matisse Thybulle, Jonah Bolden and T.J. McConnell are vacationing together during All-Star break

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Matisse Thybulle, Jonah Bolden and T.J. McConnell are vacationing together during All-Star break

Though the NBA All-Star festivities have officially come to an end, the Sixers aren’t set to play again for another three nights. When you’re an avid sports fan, that seems like an eternity.

What are Sixers fans supposed to do during this break while they wait for their favorite team to get back in action?

I suggest a daily dose of wholesome content.

Today's edition of wholesome content comes from a place of warmer weather, with Sixers old and new vacationing together.

That's right, Matisse Thybulle is currently on vacation with former Sixers T.J. McConnell and Jonah Bolden. The past and present of fan favorites have come together to enjoy the little break in their hectic schedules.

And by the look of things, they're definitely enjoying themselves with ... whatever they're doing here.

And when the players are on the court, fans care about their shoe choice  — so the same should apply off the court, right?

With that being said, Thybulle went with a white croc and is rockin' them. One might even say ... crockin' them. Yes, I actually wrote that.

Anyways, the Sixers are back in action Thursday night when they host the Nets. Then and only then will the bad puns stop ... maybe.

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