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Zhaire Smith's 'freak' athleticism, jumper and more early impressions

Zhaire Smith's 'freak' athleticism, jumper and more early impressions

CAMDEN, N.J. — At Texas Tech and throughout the pre-draft process, people raved about Zhaire Smith’s athleticism. It’s one of the reasons the Sixers acquired him in a draft-night deal with the Suns. And after a few days at summer league minicamp, Smith’s athleticism continues to amaze his teammates. 

Smith, who officially signed with the Sixers Monday, will play his first summer league game Friday, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN against the Celtics. The early impressions of his game should give you a decent idea of what you can expect to see.

'The dude’s a freak athlete'

Those were Landry Shamet’s first words when asked about his impressions of Smith. Shamet, the No. 26 pick in this year’s draft, said Smith’s athleticism can catch you by surprise.

“It’s sneaky,” Shamet said. “If you just look at him, you might not think he’s going to be freaky and get explosive right here. But he does stuff like [Monday] where he had a putback in practice where he just, boom, came out of nowhere. It’s kind of when you don’t expect things. I think that’s the mark of a really good athlete; it’s supposed to be a regular play and then he makes it a spectacular one. I think that’s Zhaire to a tee.

“One of the best athletes I’ve ever been around, and there’s a lot of them in this group. Zhaire’s a great guy, already getting to have a relationship with him. Good dude, plays really hard, really athletic, plays the right way. Going to be someone I’ll enjoy playing with.”

Delaware Blue Coats forward Cameron Oliver shared Shamet’s opinion about Smith’s special athleticism. 

“Zhaire, that’s probably one of the most athletic guards I’ve ever seen in my life,” Oliver said. “It was fun playing with him, showing him how things work … Just showing him the ropes.”

And if for some reason you thought those two guys were outliers, Demetrius Jackson also highlighted Smith’s athletic ability.

“He’s good. He’s really good,” Jackson said. “He’s so talented and athletic, and he can fly. He’s going to be a great player for a long time and he’s got a great base around him here in Philly to help him grow and develop. He’s going to be amazing. He’s a great kid too, so I’m looking forward to seeing him succeed.”  

How does the jumper look?

Given that Smith only attempted 40 three-pointers in his single season at Texas Tech, there are understandably some questions about his jumper. 

In person, you can’t detect any major flaws in Smith’s shot. He gets nice rotation and arc, squares his shoulders to the basket and follows through well. 

He also looks more comfortable than you might expect shooting the ball. Like pretty much all players, he’s best when his feet are under him, but his athleticism helps him make shots even when he’s not in perfect shooting position. This high-arcing three-pointer from behind the backboard is a great example. 

If anything, his release could be a little quicker and more consistent, although it’s a positive sign that he seems to be getting his shot off slightly faster than in college. Smith knows his jumper can improve, and he’s working on fine-tuning it.

“Just coming in, doing form shooting, continuing to try to be more consistent, that’s about it,” Smith said. “Continue to hold my follow-through. When I start missing, it’s just the little things — I gotta either breathe or use my legs.”

Smith acknowledged the shift to the NBA three-point line is “a big adjustment,” which is why he’s especially focused on using his legs. 

It will be interesting to see how Smith’s shot looks in game action, and to see how confident he is pulling the trigger from long range. All indications are that he has a solid foundation with his jumper.

Learning a new position

The 6-foot-4 Smith, who played at power forward in college, will play on the wing in the NBA. According to him, that hasn’t been a difficult transition so far.

“Just playing against quicker guards,” Smith said. “I’ve made a good adjustment. I’m comfortable playing the two and a little bit of three here in practice, but it’s not too big of an adjustment.”

Smith did show some playmaking ability in the portion of practice open to the media, finding teammates inside on several occasions, including one play Tuesday where he was double-teamed and dished it to Chris McCullough inside for an easy lay-up. 

He wasn’t perfect defensively, but lateral quickness doesn't look like it will be an issue. The one thing you can say with confidence after getting a short look at Smith is that he competes hard — he doesn’t take plays off. We still don’t know yet whether he’ll be a successful NBA wing, but at a minimum, he should bring energy and a few ferocious putback dunks off the bench as a rookie.

What to watch for in summer league 

According to Smith, he’s working on “my all-around game: shooting, ball-handling, defending, and just learning the game, building my IQ up.”

In summer league, we should see his unique athleticism on full display. For the Sixers, any success as a three-point shooter or signs that he has the tools to excel as an NBA two-guard would be a bonus.

Smith said he hasn’t set any specific goals for summer league.

“I haven’t put thought into it,” he said. “I’m just trying to win and just develop. Just have fun and play the game.”

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How to watch Sixers vs. Nets Game 4: Start time, TV, and live streaming info

How to watch Sixers vs. Nets Game 4: Start time, TV, and live streaming info

After big wins in Games 2 and 3, the Philadelphia 76ers are looking to jump out to a commanding 3-1 series lead in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday afternoon.

NBC Sports Philadelphia has you covered with your local broadcast crew — Marc Zumoff, Alaa Abdelnaby and Serena Winters — for Game 4 (and the rest of the series against Brooklyn). Here’s the full lineup for Game 4 on NBC Sports Philadelphia, plus streaming on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams app:

2:00 p.m.: Sixers Pregame Live
3:00 p.m.: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers, Game 4
5:30 p.m.: Sixers Postgame Live
6:30 p.m.: 76ers Outsiders 

Access the live stream of the entire Game 2 lineup right here

Watch with NBC Sports Bet

Have a little bit more skin in today’s game? You can join Marc Farzetta, Brad Feinberg and Anthony Gargano for a special betting-focused broadcast of Game 4. Saturday’s alternate broadcast will feature betting-related commentary and analysis in real time. It'll air at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus. 

Living outside of Philly? 

If you’re a displaced Philly fan, you can still get your local Sixers news and analysis. NBC Sports Gold Philly Pass provides out-of-market fans access to Sixers Pregame Live, Sixers Postgame Live, Sixers Outsiders and plenty of other great NBC Sports Philadelphia content. Access Philly Pass here

Sixers at Nets, Game 4: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

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Sixers at Nets, Game 4: 3 storylines to watch and how to stream the game

The Sixers are hoping to keep their playoff momentum going in Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets.

When: 3 p.m. Sixers Pregame Live starts at 2 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Here are three storylines to watch:

Joe Harris

The Sixers (and JJ Redick) have done a terrific job containing Joe Harris in this series, who hasn’t hit a three in the past two games. You’ve probably noticed by now that how the Nets have looked to defend Redick is quite similar to how the Sixers have defended Harris. But Redick and the Sixers have adjusted to the Nets' defense and found ways to get Redick open. Brooklyn will be looking to do that with Harris.

Small ball

Ed Davis is out for Game 4 after tweaking his ankle, which means we’ll be seeing a lot of small ball for the Nets. We’ve seen the Sixers put Mike Scott at center to counter those small-ball lineups, so don’t be surprised if we see that again this afternoon. On a related note, it would be nice to get Scott going after he struggled to hit shots in Game 1 and Game 2. The Sixers are going to need him as they get deeper into the playoffs.

A starting lineup change?

There was a lot of talk at Nets practice about a potential starting lineup change. Might we see Joe Harris come off the bench? Maybe Spencer Dinwiddie or Caris LeVert in the starting lineup? Atkinson said everything is on the table.

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