76ers

Zhaire Smith shows off explosiveness, defensive potential in Delaware Blue Coats’ win over Fort Wayne Mad Ants

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Kevin Gallagher

Zhaire Smith shows off explosiveness, defensive potential in Delaware Blue Coats’ win over Fort Wayne Mad Ants

WILMINGTON, Del. — The Zhaire Smith show made its debut Monday night in Delaware.

The Sixers rookie, who will be with the Blue Coats for the rest of their season, played 19 minutes and posted 12 points on 5 for 9 shooting, two assists and two rebounds in Delaware’s 112-109 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.

Unlike Friday, when Smith showed plenty of rust in a loss to the Maine Red Claws, the 19-year-old closely resembled the explosive player we saw in his single year at Texas Tech. 

Here are some observations on his performance:

• Smith’s first points of the night came off one of the features of his game at Texas Tech — a putback dunk. After Rashad Vaughn’s layup came up short, Smith swooped in from the left wing and slammed it home.

He added two dunks later in the game, one off a broken play, the other a casual slam in transition.

After Smith’s two practices with the Sixers, Brett Brown remarked that Smith “really has a bounce.” Brown is right; despite losing about 35 pounds at one point, Smith hasn’t lost his springiness. 

• Before the game, Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said he’s in regular contact with the Sixers about Smith and his progress. Three Sixers player development staffers who have worked with Smith throughout his rookie year were in attendance Monday. According to Johnson, the Sixers are most interested in monitoring Smith’s defense during his stint in Delaware. 

We’re all working toward this same goal: It starts with him being an elite defender. That’s really the No. 1 thing we want to see. We’re really working on him guarding the ball and getting through ball screens. Just making it difficult so when he sees some of the better perimeter offensive players in the G League that he can sit down and guard them and contain them — that’s the No. 1 thing we’re working on. 

• In the first half, Smith was tasked with guarding Fort Wayne’s Edmond Summer, who entered Monday night averaging 24.6 points per game. Smith defended Sumner well, drawing two travels simply by sticking with Sumner on drives to the rim and refusing to give him an opening. When he got beat on the initial move, Smith’s recovery speed was impressive. Smith did get caught off guard by a couple of screens, but that’s understandable in his second game following a long, unusual hiatus that Brown described Saturday as “deeper than concerning.”

• Though Smith missed his first three jumpers, his shot looked smoother and more fluid than in his pro debut. In the third quarter, he sized up his man in isolation with a few between-the-legs dribbles, pulled up and knocked it down from the right elbow.

Smith has tweaked his shot since we last saw him in summer league, moving his release further to the right side of his head.

Here’s what his jumper looked like in July, at rookie minicamp:

And here’s Smith warming up before Monday’s game: 

• Shake Milton (right hand fracture) is “getting close” to a return, Johnson said pregame. Johnson is “hopeful we’ll get [Milton] back before the year is over.”

The Sixers’ other two-way player, Haywood Highsmith had 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Mad Ants. 

• Delaware has 10 games remaining, with a matchup at the Capital City Go-Go on Friday next up, followed by a home game Saturday vs. the Grand Rapids Drive. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Smith, especially after his encouraging performance Monday night. 

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Why it makes sense that Kyle Korver signed with Bucks over Sixers

Why it makes sense that Kyle Korver signed with Bucks over Sixers

Sixers fans hoping for a Kyle Korver reunion got disappointing news Saturday afternoon.

The veteran sharpshooter is reportedly signing a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Korver’s decision was down to the Bucks and the Sixers. Ultimately, Korver chose the Bucks because of his relationship with head coach Mike Budenholzer. It makes sense. Korver enjoyed the best stretch of his career in four-plus seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, including his only All-Star appearance. The 2014-15 Hawks, which featured Sixers general manager Elton Brand and forward Mike Scott, won 60 games and got to the Eastern Conference Finals.

While the Sixers could’ve used Korver’s shooting to help space the floor, he’s 38 years old  — he’ll turn 39 in March — and would’ve occupied the team’s 14th roster spot. It’s a slight disappointment, but not a huge concern. With all things even between the Sixers and Bucks as far as both teams’ ability to contend, Korver chose to play for his former coach.

The veteran free agent pool is getting thinner, but there are a couple guys that might be able to help. Iman Shumpert is a veteran wing with championship experience. Shaun Livingston has even more of that experience from his time with the Warriors. Thabo Sefolosha is a 3-and-D type that is used to fitting into roles on winning teams.

The Sixers on Friday signed 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje to an Exhibit 10 deal, which we explained here. Koumadje is more likely getting a look for the Delaware Blue Coats than anything. The team has the minimum 13 players signed to guaranteed NBA deals. The maximum is 15.

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Sixers sign center Christ Koumadje to partially guaranteed contract

Sixers sign center Christ Koumadje to partially guaranteed contract

Updated: 6:40 p.m.

Elton Brand isn’t messing around when it comes to depth at center.

The Sixers are signing big man Christ Koumadje to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Koumadje, who stands 7-foot-4, is an undrafted rookie out of Florida State. He played with the Sixers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, averaging six points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 13.7 minutes a game. He also had issues with fouls, committing 4.8 a contest — players get 10 fouls in summer league play.

If Koumadje, 23, gets into an NBA game, he will be the first player from the country of Chad in north-central Africa to do so. He’d also be the tallest player in the league — if the Celtics don’t sign the 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall to an NBA deal. There is a possibility that Koumadje is simply an extra camp body and the team is giving him a hard look for its G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. 

The contract has an Exhibit 10 attachment. In that instance, the team has the right to convert the contract to a two-way deal. The Sixers already have their two-way spots filled with Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle, but things can certainly change. If a two-way deal is not offered off the Exhibit 10, the player can be waived and then sign with the team’s G-League affiliate for up to $50,000, more than a general G-League contract.

Brand already made it a point to increase the depth behind Joel Embiid, signing veterans Al Horford and Kyle O’Quinn.

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