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Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

Why Wizards point guard Ish Smith purposefully never dunks in games

WASHINGTON -- Go to a Washington Wizards game these days and you may see point guard Ish Smith do many things. He has a mean crossover, is shooting threes like never before in his career and he's a blur up and down the court.

What you will basically never see Smith do is dunk. He hasn't thrown one down in a game since the 2017-18 season. He dunked twice that year, down from four times the season before and down from his career-high of eight the year before that.

Smith has basically eliminated dunking from his game. It's not that he can't, he just chooses not to. And it's for a good reason.

Now in his 10th NBA season, Smith believes the wear-and-tear that comes with dunking isn't worth it at this point.

"I'm saving my legs," he told NBC Sports Washington. "I was watching something and Steve Nash was talking about how he played when he got older - on the ground, pretty much on land. He was preserving his energy because he moved a lot, cut a lot [with] ball-handling and different things like that. I try to preserve all that."

Smith, 31, has achieved a rare level of longevity in the NBA. He went undrafted in 2010, yet has lasted a decade in the NBA as a 6-foot tall point guard. The Wizards are his 11th team, one off the NBA record.

There is an old adage in the NBA that each dunk takes a game off your career. Many things can happen when players are high up in the air and risking contact, but also the simple act of jumping and landing can take its toll on joints and ligaments.

Smith has carved out the career he has by making sacrifices, and that includes dunking. Even when he is alone on a fastbreak, he will just lay it in.

"Yeah, you get breakout layups and stuff like that," he said. "I guess because I have done it, but it's not as tempting as used to be. It's just like get these two points and get back."

When he was younger, Smith would dunk when he had the opportunity. Now he says he's kind of over it.

"I had some dunk-ons [back in the day]. But as I got older, I realized it ain't all that," he said.

Smith now prides himself on a wide array of release angles on layups around the rim. He can finish with his right and left hand, in traffic and off-balance. He can double-clutch and use the glass.

Smith has a way of sneaking under bigger defensive players and timing layups to avoid blocked shots. It's a big part of his game.

But maybe someday soon we will see Smith dunk again in a game. Perhaps he will do so, just to show everyone he's still got it.

"[I dunked] the other day when we were in Toronto, after practice," he said. "After that, I was like 'oh no, I don't know why I did that.'"

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Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Gilbert Arenas set to return to D.C. in June as part of the BIG3

Any Wizards fans looking to watch professional basketball over the summer should circle July 11 on their calendar.

Former Wizards star Gilbert Arenas returns to Capital One Arena on that Saturday, as part of the Enemies of the BIG3.

The BIG3 announced their schedule for the 2020 schedule on Wednesday, and all 12 teams will play in Washington, D.C. during the third week of the season.

Arenas, who joined the league last year as a member of the Enemies squad, did not play in the nation's capital last season. The Enemies did not make playoffs in their first season of the BIG3.

Other former Wizards players in the BIG3 include Rashard Lewis, Drew Gooden, DeShawn Stevenson, and Mike Bibby among others.

The fourth season of the BIG3 kicks off June 20 in Memphis, Tenn.

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GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

GM Tommy Sheppard so far proving he is good at exactly what Wizards need

There is an argument, and I've made it before, that John Wall's contract and injury situation combine for one of the biggest roster-building obstacles in NBA history. Never before has a player making as much money as he is suffered an injury as serious as his ruptured left Achilles. He takes up 35% of the salary cap, is not playing this season and has no guarantees of returning to his All-Star form once he comes back.

Even if Wall does return to his prime form, and there's reason to be hopeful he can, his contract includes a lot of money for the Wizards to work around. And that has created a scenario where making small moves count matter even more than they otherwise would.

The Wizards have to maximize all of their other resources, much like the Brooklyn Nets did when they ultimately overcame the disastrous 2014 trade with the Boston Celtics that left them paying a debt of high first-round picks for years. Brooklyn worked around their draft pick blackhole by hitting on late-round selections plus minor signings and trades. And they built a foundation along the way that made them surprising heavyweights in free agency. 

The Wizards have plenty of work to do, but first-year general manager Tommy Sheppard is already proving his worth in peripheral transactions, the types that turned the Nets around. They may be less-heralded acquisitions, but they can also become major separators between GMs.

Sheppard has been running the Wizards front office for less than a calendar year, yet he already has an impressive list of marginal moves. Just recently he turned Isaiah Thomas, who was a glaring detriment on the defensive end, into Jerome Robinson, the 13th overall pick just 20 months ago.

Last offseason, his first as GM, he flipped Aaron White, a former second-round pick who was stashed in Europe, for Davis Bertans, who has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He also turned cap space into Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, two guys with intriguing potential. Wagner, in particular, has emerged as a building block.

There are other minor moves Sheppard has made that stand out as good ones. He may have found something in Garrison Mathews, a rookie on a two-way deal who can light it up from three. Anzejs Pasecniks and Gary Payton II have been nice surprises as end-of-the-roster guys. And signing Ish Smith for less money instead of retaining Tomas Satoransky has proven to be a smart decision.

Sheppard continues to nail the smaller moves but he has also hit on some of the bigger ones. He drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall in June and he has exceeded expectations thus far. Sheppard also re-signed Bradley Beal to a contract extension in October, a move few saw coming.

What will ultimately write the story of Sheppard's tenure as GM are decisions even bigger than those. There will also be some level of luck between the draft lottery, injuries and other factors.

But the best signs for what the Wizards should hope they get from Sheppard are already there. They need someone who can maximize all roster-building opportunities and work within the tight space of their remaining salary cap.

So far, Sheppard has done just that.