Ish Smith Has the Sixers Thinking 8 Wins

The worst record in NBA history belongs to the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats. They won 7 games that year fielding a team with an aged Corey Maggette, a young Kemba Walker, and an average Gerald Henderson. The Bobcats won three games on the road and four games at home. They lost every single game they played on Sundays and Thursdays (0-10). They were worse when they were rested. After two or more days off, they were 0-9. It was a miserable year.

The Sixers have been miserable for another year, thanks to “The Process”. They won one game with an immature Jahlil Okafor, a young Nerlens Noels and a bunch of spare parts that make you yawn. They added Ish Smith and in his first game they won on the road. They should have won last night in Utah, or at the very least, taken the game to overtime, but a Smith floater missed.

If you’re counting, the Sixers have won one home game and one road game. They lost every single game in the month of October and November, 0-18. They have lost every single game played on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 0-26. They have lost every single game on the second night of a back-to-back, 0-7. They have yet to win a conference game, 0-20.

It sounds bleak. It sounds like the making of an historically tragic team of which the NBA has never seen before. Perhaps that was the urgency for the Adam Silver invisible hand that brought Jerry Colangelo to the Sixers, who then brought Mike D’Antoni to the Sixers, whose idea it was to bring Ish Smith in.

All roads to respectability lead to Ish Smith.

Smith, a journeyman guard (and that is being kind) is a pure point who can get into the paint faster than an eyeblink. He can execute the pick and roll, or, shake his man off, crossover and get in the lane. He has good court vision and can feed the bigs. He’s a little dude so he’s whisper quick in the seams. He’s been playing this game long enough, with enough teams (Houston, Memphis, Golden State, Orlando, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Philly, New Orleans, Philly).

Yes, he was part of “The Process” before. So for that he should earn a Fields Medal, enduring the last of 2014-15 when the Sixers ended the year losing ten games in a row. Smith had some good scoring games in that streak, a 23 point game in Washington, two 17 points games, one against the Lakers and one in New York. But that was the year the Sixers thought they’d tank and get the best pick in the draft and Karl-Anthony Towns. Karma rewarded them with the third pick and Jahlil Okafor.

Ish is back.

What he can do with this team with two talented bigs is give them the ball where they can score. And Ish can score some himself. No longer will there be those games when the Sixers are playing hard, they move the ball and no one can score for five minutes. Ish makes things happen with his energy. No one is saying Ish is a great NBA point guard. His defense is apathetic so he’ll fit in with whatever scheme D’Antoni wants to run. But on offense he is going to speed the game up and get the ball where it needs to be. He can play. Opposing guards have to stop his penetration. He sets a tone. Everyone has to pay attention.

In an odd way, the Ish Smith trade is a victory at the most minute level, a six degree of separation kind of thing of which Sam Hinkie can take no credit. It was Hinkie’s disaster that brought in Silver, who brought in fixer Colangelo, who brought in offensive guru D’Antoni, who reunited Ish with the team from last year.

The Sixers play the Kings tomorrow night and then the Lakers. The Kings with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo and Rudy Gay should impose their will, but the Lakers are looking like win number three. The Lakers don’t have a point guard to stop Ish’s penetration. They don’t have the bigs to handle Okafor or Noel. It just might be the only sweep on the Sixers schedule this year.

A Lakers win would be three victories on the year, and five more to go to avoid history.

photo via llananba