It has now been a little over a month since Ish Smith rejoined the Sixers. Five weeks and six wins later, the acquisition of the feisty point guard has given the team a spark that has helped alter the direction of a once 1-30 season.
When chairman of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo visited Philadelphia this week, he noticed a change since he also joined the team in December. There was a new energy on the floor. He credited it to Smith.
The Sixers traded for Smith, who played for the team last season, from the Pelicans on Dec. 24. Two days later, he posted 14 points, five assists and two rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in the Sixers' 111-104 win over the Suns on the road. The victory was only the second of the season for the Sixers. The team is 6-11 with Smith, including close losses to top NBA teams like the Warriors, Cavs and Bulls.
"I think the good news is, just after a few weeks there's been a real improvement, and I think that's a plus," Colangelo said following practice Tuesday. "I see it in practice, just like the attitude of the players is much more positive. I think that's important, especially with a young group, that there's something to cling to.
"I think it gets back to what Ish brought. To me, it's still amazing that when he showed up in Phoenix an hour before game time that he put a uniform on and stepped out on the floor and led a team to a win, a badly needed win. That was a shot of adrenaline for sure, and it's carried over."
The acquisition of Smith solved the team's ongoing need for a starting point guard. The Sixers had shuffled players in and out of the role in the first two months, never finding a solid fit. Smith has started every game since the trade and has provided stability as a floor leader.
The Sixers have been just as much of a match as he has been for them. Undrafted out of Wake Forest in 2010, Smith is playing on his ninth team in six years. Smith is averaging 15.9 points, 8.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in a team-leading 31.4 minutes per game as a member of the Sixers.
"There's definitely a different vibe about our team here in the last month," general manager Sam Hinkie said following practice. "I think we've played at a level that's much better since, really since Ish came. I think he's the catalyst. Let's not kid ourselves about that."
Colangelo referenced the 2016 draft as a "draft of smalls." It remains to be seen how Smith's production impacts the Sixers' moves on draft night, at the trade deadline and in free agency now that there isn't a glaring hole at the one spot.
"I think he has shown he has the capacity to do a lot more than maybe where he was picked because he's bounced around quite a bit," Colangelo said. "It's a great story that finally maybe he's landed somewhere where he could do a lot more than fit that description or that role. I think you always have to keep your options open on everything.
"But I would say this: A month ago, we really had a big need. That need is a lot less today because of what he's shown he's capable of doing."