76ers

Ish Smith: Sixers lost 'great man and a great coach' in Sean Rooks

Ish Smith: Sixers lost 'great man and a great coach' in Sean Rooks

Ish Smith was taking a nap after a training session when he woke up to find his phone illuminating with calls and text messages.

He tried to digest the news he was receiving, yet it seemed unreal. Sixers player development coach Sean Rooks had died at only 46 years old (see story).

"From the basketball standpoint, everybody knew how great he was,” Smith told CSNPhilly.com Tuesday evening. “But as a person, Coach Rooks was unbelievable. He was special."

Smith clicked easily with Rooks, who, like Smith, carried himself with a smile on his face. One of their biggest topics of conversation was family. Rooks frequently spoke of his pride for his son and daughter, both basketball student-athletes. Those discussions stand out most to Smith. 

“He was always caring,” Smith said. “He loved his children.”

When it came to coaching, Rooks approached Smith, a point guard, with his 12 years of NBA experience as a big man. Rooks saw an important relationship between guards, forwards and centers. 

While Smith was a top scoring option for the Sixers this season, Rooks wanted him to get the frontcourt players more involved in the offense. He pulled Smith aside for a conversation that changed Smith’s perspective of running the floor and helped elevate his game at the one spot.

“‘Ish, get them going early and then get yourself going late,’” Smith recounted Rooks telling him. “‘Always try to get the ball to the right position, the right place with the bigs. If they’re not doing right, I’m going to get on them. You come to me.’

“He was always, always challenging me to get those guys going and keep them happy. If I keep them happy then they’re going to set screens for me, they’re going to rebound, they’re going to run the floor, they’re going to do everything it takes for our team to be successful."

Smith appreciated the manner in which Rooks delivered his coaching critiques. Rooks was honest and sincere, as players knew his words were intended to help them.

"He would always try to make everybody have a smile,” Smith said.

Rooks also let it be known to the young Sixers squad that he still had game. More than 12 years since his last NBA game, he often had shooting competitions with other members of the coaching staff and showcased his skills. 

“When I heard about it, it was shocking because he used to always get out there and play and shoot with us,” Smith said. “He’d always say, ‘This is what a real shooting four is.’ And he could stroke it."

Smith cherishes the relationship he built with Rooks during his time on the Sixers. He remembers their most recent conversations breaking down the Western Conference Finals, all the advice Rooks offered, and fun times they had simply joking and laughing. 

“We lost a great man and a great coach,” Smith said. “He’s going to always be in my heart because of how he affected me on and off the court."

Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

Sixers' Josh Richardson has a unique defensive challenge ahead

There are plenty of new things in store for Josh Richardson as one of the newest members of the 76ers, but there is one in particular that’s going to take some getting used to.

At 6-foot-6, 200 pounds, Richardson will be the smallest guy in the Sixers' starting lineup this upcoming season.

“I have never been that, ever in my life,” Richardson said with a laugh at the Sixers Summer Shore Tour in Wildwood, New Jersey. “It will be interesting looking up to my teammates, talking in huddles and stuff.”

On a serious note, Richardson is looking forward to the challenge on defense. Richardson guarded point guards quite a bit during his four years with the Miami Heat and has confidence he’ll be able to guard smaller guards.

“I know that I’ll be the shortest starter here and I don’t mind guarding all of the guys that like to get in the paint and use their speed a lot,” Richardson said.

One thing is for certain: Richardson is ready for the season to get started, especially after the NBA schedule release.

“I’m just excited," Richardson said. "I saw we open with Boston and I know there’s a little rivalry history there, so it’s going to be fun to be a part of that.”

And as for his former team?

“I always have Miami circled to go back there and compete against my brothers down there," Richardson said, "but I’m just ready, excited to compete every game.”

Richardson has kept in touch with Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Mike Scott throughout the offseason. He met Shake Milton for the first time, working out at the Sixers' training facility on Saturday morning.

The former Tennessee Volunteer has been getting his own work in this summer.

“Health, I think health is a big part, just being able to be out there for as many games as I can is going to be huge, and being able to make shots,” Richardson said of his offseason goals. “I think being a shot maker is going to be big for us.”

Looking back at the trade, despite there being a shock factor in the moments following, he couldn’t be more eager for this new opportunity. Richardson said his excitement occurred "almost instantly."

“After I started looking at the pictures of our lineup, it turned into straight excitement, like as soon as it happened,” Richardson said. “As long as we all gel, as long as we all have the same goal in mind, I think we’ll have a strong season.”

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Zhaire Smith has a clear goal for his first full NBA season with the Sixers

Zhaire Smith has a clear goal for his first full NBA season with the Sixers

Zhaire Smith has packed on some pounds this summer, most recently weighing in at 212 as he continues to grind in the weight room over the offseason.

“I’ve got a lot of goals, especially in the weight room, to get bigger, stronger and faster,” Smith said at the Sixers Summer Shore Tour in Wildwood, New Jersey.

There’s a reason that when you ask Smith about his goals this summer, he always makes a reference to the weight room.

After a severe allergic reaction nearly takes away your entire rookie season, leaving you in a hospital for weeks and with feeding tubes for months, gaining back the 40 pounds (and some) you lost becomes a pretty important goal.

“With all I’ve been through the past 12 months, and it’s been a crazy ride, a lot of bumps in the road, but we here now and I’m not looking back.”

If that crazy ride he’s been on has taught him one thing, it’s this:

“I know not to take the game for granted and work hard every day, like it’s my last.”

If you talk to those around Smith, you’ll find out quickly that working hard isn’t something the young guard takes lightly. He also knows that minutes aren’t going to be handed to him, and he’s ready to get to work.

“To get in the rotation, play hard and just do what I do and have fun with it,” Smith said of his goals this season.

Smith is also looking forward to practices and bonding with his new teammates.

“It’s going to be competitive. I can see it right now, that practice is going to be really intense and we are just going to go at it.”

On top of that, Smith is ready to soak up all the knowledge he can, especially on the defensive end.

“I’m looking forward to asking questions and learning, so it’s going to be a fun ride. I believe we are all going to bond together really quick and have a fun time.”

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