Ish Smith

Ish Smith Suffers Quad Injury, Out 6-8 Weeks

Wizards reserve point guard Ish Smith has suffered a right proximal quadriceps injury, and is expected to be sidelined for the next six to eight weeks, per an official team tweet. Washington will reassess his status after three weeks of rehabilitation.

Smith inked a two-year, $12MM contract with the Wizards in the summer of 2019. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. In 19 games with the Wizards this season, Smith is averaging 5.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, and 3.5 RPG across 20.6 MPG.

The 6’0″ veteran guard out of Wake Forest has already been unavailable for the past two Wizards games with the injury, as Fred Katz of The Athletic notes (Twitter link). In his stead, Raul Neto and Troy Brown have compensated for his minutes behind starter Russell Westbrook.

“It’s tough news,” head coach Scott Brooks said of the Smith injury, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). “He does things that we’re not going to be able to replace in the second unit. He gives us that instant change of pace.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Southeast Division

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Southeast Division:

Malik Monk, Hornets, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $15.7MM deal in 2017

Monk has forced his way back into Charlotte’s rotation — 36-point explosions will do that for you. Monk’s scoring outburst led the Hornets to an overtime victory against Miami on Monday. That was sandwiched by an 18-point game against Milwaukee and a 13-point output against Philadelphia. A 2017 lottery pick, Monk has never shot better than 34.2% from deep in his first three seasons and bottomed out at 28.4% last season. He’s made 52.5% of his long-range shots this season. Charlotte would have to extend Monk a $7MM+ qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent this summer. The Hornets might opt to deal him this winter but Monk will continue to pump up his value if he keeps shooting like this.

Tony Snell, Hawks, 29, SG (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $46MM deal in 2017

Snell had a player option that was much too lucrative to turn down last offseason. When he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, he’ll be looking at substantially smaller offers that the one he received from Milwaukee in 2017. Snell started regularly for Detroit last season but he hasn’t gotten much floor time with Atlanta despite several injuries to wing players. He played a season-high 24 minutes against Utah on Thursday but once De’Andre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic return to action, Snell will reside at the end of the bench once again.

Kendrick Nunn, Heat, 25, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.1MM deal in 2018

Nunn was one of the league’s feel-good stories last season, an undrafted rookie who graduated from the G League to become a starter with the Heat, then finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting after averaging 15.3 PPG and 3.3 APG in 67 regular-season games. However, he lost his starting job in the Orlando bubble following a bout with COVID-19 and hasn’t regained it this season. Nunn was playing regularly when Jimmy Butler battled the virus last month but he has fallen completely out of the rotation the last three games. Avery Bradley‘s latest injury should allow him to regain his spot. Nunn’s qualifying offer is a meager $2.1MM if he doesn’t meet the starter criteria, so he’ll likely become a restricted free agent. Still, it’ll be harder to land a big offer sheet from another club if his playing time continues to wildly fluctuate.

Ish Smith, Wizards, 32, PG (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $12MM deal in 2019

Smith has carved out a nice career as a second-unit sparkplug. He’s always been capable of tossing in a 20-point night with his quickness and driving ability. Those outings haven’t occurred this season. He’s only reached double digits once despite averaging a steady 20.7 MPG. He’s still making a positive contributor with his passing – he’s averaged 7.0 assists the last five games – but he’s 1-for-12 from the field in his last two games despite playing 54 minutes. At 32, Smith will find it increasingly difficult to get offers ahead of younger players. That reality could strike as early as this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Beal Acknowledges Frustration As Wizards’ Slide Continues

Wizards star Bradley Beal scored 47 points on Wednesday, but it wasn’t nearly enough to topple the Pelicans, who won by a score of 124-106. The Wizards’ record dropped to an NBA-worst 3-11, and the outcome made Beal the first player in NBA history to lose 10 consecutive games in which he scored 40 or more points (Twitter link).

Asked after the game if he’s frustrated by how things are going for the team as of late, Beal replied rhetorically, “Is the sky blue?” (link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com).

When trade speculation about Beal was beginning to heat up in 2019, the All-Star guard quieted it by signing a two-year, $72MM contract extension to remain in Washington through at least 2021/22. However, the team has a 28-58 (.326) record across parts of two seasons since then, which aren’t exactly the results Beal was hoping for.

“It’s tough,” Beal said, per Youngmisuk. “I am not going to sit here and be naive. … We want to win, and I want to win. This is why I stayed. I want to win. I figured this is the place I can get it done. It’s tough. Last year was what it was. We had a lot of guys out. John (Wall) was out. It was just a rotten year. COVID hit.

“This year it’s the same thing. Like in a mini-bubble outside the bubble. No fans, no nothing, no practice time. It’s been tough.”

The Wizards have had some bad injury luck this year. Starting center Thomas Bryant suffered a season-ending ACL tear, while newly-acquired point guard Russell Westbrook – who sat out the second half of a back-to-back set on Wednesday – has also been limited by health issues, including a quad injury.

Additionally, Washington has been hit harder this year by the coronavirus pandemic than perhaps any other NBA team. Seven of the Wizards’ players have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 since the 2020/21 season began.

While Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner all remained sidelined due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said last night that he thinks there’s a “great chance” the club will get a few of those players back soon, perhaps as early as Friday (Twitter link via Fred Katz of The Athletic).

Those reinforcements could help stabilize the Wizards’ rotation, and with 58 of 72 games still to play, there’s plenty of time to turn things around. Beal said on Wednesday that the group’s confidence level remains high (link via Katz), while Brooks expressed hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and stressed that Beal’s desire to win is “critical to our future success” (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).

Still, it’s safe to assume teams around the league will continue to monitor the situation in Washington in the coming weeks or months. For now, Beal’s frustration hasn’t risen to the point where he’s seeking a change of scenery, but he’d instantly become the NBA’s most sought-after trade target if he’s made available at any point this season.

NBA Postpones Friday’s Wizards/Bucks Game

The game between the Wizards and Bucks that was scheduled to be played on Friday in Milwaukee has been postponed, the NBA announced tonight (Twitter link).

It’s the sixth consecutive postponement for the Wizards, who haven’t played since January 11. The team was cleared to return to the court to practice on Wednesday, but remains significantly shorthanded.

Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner are out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad) are sidelined due to injuries, leaving just eight available players on the roster (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the game is being postponed due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing affecting players on the roster, and the club’s lengthy layoff from practicing.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote earlier tonight, Bradley Beal and the Wizards had been planning to lobby for a postponement of Friday’s game, since they felt that potentially playing with the league-mandated minimum of eight players after not practicing for the last week would result in a high risk of injury for the active players.

The next game on Washington’s schedule is Sunday in San Antonio. The hope is that the Wizards will have enough available players – and enough practice time between now and then – to be ready to play that game.

The NBA has now postponed 17 contests this season. The full list is here.

Eastern Notes: Okoro, Pistons, Smith, Ball, Hayward

An early conversation with Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff helped 19-year-old rookie Isaac Okoro control his first-game jitters and secure a 107-104 preseason win on Saturday, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

Okoro, who scored 18 points (including 16 in the fourth quarter), converted an and-one layup with 0.3 seconds left to help the team defeat the Pacers. He also impressed the franchise with his defensive work, guarding the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Holiday throughout the game.

“I wanted him to shoot the ball every time he was open. Pretty simple,” Bickerstaff said of what he told Okoro. “Obviously he’s capable of making shots. I think he was uncomfortable in those moments, still trying to search and catch a rhythm. But I wanted him to have the confidence and I wanted his teammates to give him that confidence as well that when he’s open, take those shots, knock those shots down and then the rest of the game opens up.

“He had an opportunity to take shots early on that I thought he turned down. Because of his ability to attack the rim and high level-finishing, if people have to press up on him, he’s going to be a nightmare to guard.”

Okoro and the Cavaliers will play Indiana at home for a second straight time on Monday, then travel to New York to play the Knicks on Wednesday. The team’s final preseason contest will commence on Friday against New York.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Pistons have hired Travon Bryant as an assistant coach with a focus on player development, his agency, Career Sports & Entertainment, announced on social media. Bryant spent the past three seasons serving as an assistant with the Nets.
  • Wizards guard Ish Smith is dealing with lower body soreness, coach Scott Brooks said, as relayed by Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Smith missed the team’s first preseason game against the Nets on Sunday, with Brooks expecting the soreness to heal in the coming days.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines the Hornets‘ preseason game from Saturday, along with the debuts of both LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward. Ball went scoreless and registered four turnovers in 16 minutes off the bench, but he also grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out four assists and made multiple highlight plays. Hayward scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes, shooting 4-of-8 from the floor.

Wizards Notes: Centers, Wall, Draft, I. Smith

Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard participated in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Sunday afternoon, and while not all of his answers were especially juicy, he shared a handful of interesting tidbits with fans over the course of that Q&A.

As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington passes along, one of Sheppard’s most noteworthy responses came when he was asked about the Wizards’ center position and how much of the team’s cap flexibility this summer might be put toward addressing it. Sheppard’s answer suggested it won’t be a top priority, according to Hughes.

“If you look at the way the game is played, it’s harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position,” Sheppard wrote. “We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We’re pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Within that Reddit AMA, Sheppard also addressed the progress John Wall is making as he rehabs his Achilles injury, noting that the point guard has scrimmaged with Washington’s G League affiliate. “We’re extremely pleased with John’s condition right now, his participation throughout the rehab process has been fantastic,” Sheppard wrote, according to Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. “I’ve never seen him this motivated to make a full recovery. We see John scrimmage with the Go-Go, we see him at practice with the Wizards. And while the rust is still there, there’s plenty of signs that point to a full recovery.”
  • Jackson Filyo of WashingtonWizards.com passes along a few more of the highlights from Sheppard’s AMA, including the GM’s comments on drafting Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown‘s position, and the Wizards’ plans for the 2020 draft. Sheppard described this year’s draft class as “deeper this year than people realize.”
  • Wizards point guard Ish Smith will be re-evaluated later this week, as his left hamstring injury has gone from a day-to-day issue to a week-to-week ailment. Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington has the details.

Wizards Notes: Culture, Bryant, Smith, Mathews

The culture in Washington has changed dramatically from last season and Ish Smith believes the team the Wizards could be on a similar path to the one the Nets are on, as he told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance after the team’s recent win over the Celtics.

“Brooklyn, I thought, did a great job of it last year. They’ve been doing a great job over the last two years – they haven’t had any true superstars, but now they do,” Smith said. “They’ve just been playing hard and guys have emerged out of nowhere.

“You look at Joe Harris; Joe Harris wasn’t a household name, now he is one. Spencer Dinwiddie, I can go down the line, all of those guys who played really, really well and held down the fort – and they made it to the playoffs last year. Obviously, D’Angelo [Russell] was a household name and everybody knew who he was, but I thought Brooklyn had laid that [foundation] down. We’re just trying to play hard, try to play smarter. We’re embodying who Coach [Scott] Brooks is. Coach Brooks is a fighter and that’s who he was his whole career. I think we’re doing a great job of doing that these last few games.”

The Wizards have had a stockpile of injuries and players without much brand recognition have stepped up. Here’s more on the unique squad out of Washington:

  • The front office would like to promote Anzejs Pasecniks, who is on a two-way deal, to the 15-man roster, though good luck guessing which player would be waived if that happens. Gary Payton II‘s contract for the season became fully guaranteed on Tuesday, which makes the Wizards roster 15-for-15 in guaranteed contracts.
  • Thomas Bryant could make his return to the court this weekend. The Wizards play the Hawks on Friday and the Jazz on Sunday.
  • Wizards guard Jordan McRae spoke about how Smith, has impacted the club “Ish [Smith] is doing what Ish does. We’ve been going through droughts where we can’t score. Him being the point guard, him being the leader that he is, he’s taken it upon himself,” McRae said. We recently detailed how Smith is channeling his inner Steve Nash for the Wizards.
  • Brook said there is no update on Garrison Mathews, who is dealing with an ankle sprain, Fred Katz of The Athletic relays on Twitter.

Ish Smith Channels His Inner Steve Nash For The Wizards

MVP chants broke out during the Wizards‘ upset victory over the Celtics, drowning out the thousands of Boston fans that, at times, made the Capital One Arena feel like the TD Garden. Ish Smith, who had 59 points off the bench over his past two games, had again taken control of the contest.

“If it were a two-game season, I would have to agree with the crowd: MVP,” coach Scott Brooks said to the media in attendance, including Hoops Rumors. “And he’s bringing back the mid-range. He plays. Man, that guy, he’s hard to stay in front of. He changes direction, his pace, speed, it’s hard—it’s hard to stay in front of him.”

Smith, who signed a two-year, $12MM contract with the Wizards this past offseason, attributes many parts of his game to NBA legend Steve Nash.

“You know what’s funny, I was watching some tape of [Nash] last night,” the point guard said after the team’s win over the Celtics. “I’m always trying to get better. The game of basketball, I love to play the game and Steve did such a great job, as you know, and we know watching him. Probing, keeping his dribble, he was unbelievable in the mid-range game. I sometimes thought he didn’t shoot enough. I used to watch tons of him.

“The late, great Skip Prosser, my coach, he passed away. He used to sit me down my freshman year and show me tons of Tony Parker and Steve Nash clips. When you watch me play, you see a lot of that. Coaches used to tell me [to keep my dribble]. I’m glad I’m continuing that on and I’m still trying to learn from him, just watching his tapes. I watched the playoffs when he played against Dallas and he had 39 and he just kept making shots and they went to the conference finals. I’m constantly learning and getting better.”

Smith’s has elevated his game at a time when his team needed him the most, as Washington has been decimated by injuries this season. No one expected John Wall to come back, but the list of players sidelined is getting ridiculous. C.J. Miles has been out since November. Thomas Bryant hasn’t played in over a month. Davis Bertans, Moritz Wagner, and Rui Hachimura all remain out with three very different injuries.

NBA Ironman Bradley Beal has missed the past three games and five out of the past six, including the Wizards’ pair of upset victories over the Nuggets and Celtics. Garrison Mathews, who was turning into a key contributor for the team, went down during the first half of the Boston game. The team had to utilize a pair of hardship exceptions in recent weeks on Gary Payton II and Johnathan Williams, starting both in a handful of contests before being forced to trim down the roster again. Charles Barkley could play ‘Who he play for’ Wizards edition and go 0-for-6.

Despite the various ailments, Brooks has opted to stack the bench unit, led by Smith, and the strategy has paid dividends. The Wizards scored 92 points off the bench against the Nuggets, causing coach Mike Malone to give a brash rant, telling reporters that he was “embarrassed” for his squad.

“The reality is this is the NBA, man, I don’t care who plays,” Malone said. “They’re professional players, all their players are playing for something. They don’t get an opportunity to play a lot now they have an opportunity. They are grabbing it. So, you know, kudos to them. That’s what you want to see.”

After the Wizards’ win on Saturday, the locker room had a champagne-like celebration (it was all water). After the win over the Celtics, it was all praise to Smith, who has led this ever-changing group, mentoring the younger players and playing the role of both scorer and facilitator on the floor.

“There’s certain stuff he does where I’m like, ‘I can’t do that.’ Just the pace he plays at and how calm he stays, how collected he is and his composure,” Troy Brown Jr. said of Smith. “He’s definitely a great player and somebody definitely to look up to that’s been in the league for a long time.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wizards Notes: Bertans, Smith, Payton, Chiozza

General manager Tommy Sheppard said this week that the Wizards plan to re-sign Davis Bertans, but Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington believes they may rethink their position before the trade deadline. Bertans has emerged as one of the league’s top 3-point shooters, hitting a career-best 44.7% through the season’s first 27 games. But his eventual price tag could be a concern to a franchise that has already made expensive long-term commitments to Bradley Beal and John Wall.

A league executive predicts Bertans will command a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $51MM over three seasons. Hughes states that the Wizards can easily afford to give Bertans around $15MM per season, especially with Ian Mahinmi‘s $15.5MM salary coming off the books after this season. However, if the price gets closer to $20MM annually, Washington might have to reconsider to avoid a repeat of the salary cap crunch it escaped at last year’s deadline.

Hughes hears that the Sixers, Hawks and Lakers would be the most interested teams if the Wizards opt to shop Bertans. Washington will want at least a first-round pick in return, but any contender would be offering a choice very late in the draft. Unless someone comes through with a sweeter offer, Washington may opt to keep Bertans and take its chances in free agency.

There’s more from D.C.:

  • Ish Smith is excelling off the bench and making a strong case for a full-time starting job, observes Mike DePrisco of NBC Sports Washington. Last night in Toronto, Smith became the first reserve in franchise history with a perfect shooting night on at least nine shot attempts since the stat started being kept in 1971.
  • Gary Payton II, who is reportedly close to re-signing with the Wizards, got a strong endorsement from his coach this week at the G League Showcase, relays Sam Gordon of The Las Vegas Review-Journal“It’s dependent on fit and timing. He has the skills. He has the talent. He has the mentality,” said Coby Karl of the South Bay Lakers. “He’s an elite athlete at the NBA level. He can do so many different things on the court.”
  • Chris Chiozza, who was released earlier this week, has joined Washington’s G League affiliate in Capital City after clearing waivers, tweets Fred Katz of The Athletic.

Wizards Notes: Chemistry, Wagner, Thomas

The atmosphere in Washington is much more upbeat than it was last season, as Troy Haliburton and I recently discussed on the Wizards’ Locked On podcast. Team chemistry is something that’s hard to measure (I’m no body language doctor as Bill Simmons would say), though this year’s edition of the Wizards are noticeably having fun playing basketball and they are outperforming their low expectations that many gave them entering the season.

The Wizards are second in the league on offense entering the night and while the team only has five wins on the season (5-9), many of the losses have been close with three of those by four points or less and a total of six losses by eight points or less.

As the team begins its four-game road trip, let’s take a look at more notes from Washington:

  • Former University of Florida star Chris Chiozza is with the Wizards on the first leg of their road trip, the team announces. Chiozza is on a two-way deal with Washington.
  • Moritz Wagner, who is helping the Wizards own one of the better bench units in the NBA, recently admitted to Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance that he has a ways to go on the defensive end. “I’m still learning too. It’s my second year and my first opportunity to actually play,” said Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-way trade this offseason.
  • Coach Scott Brooks left Isaiah Thomas and Ish Smith on the floor together in the Wizards’ recent contest against the Kings and Thomas feels the two point guards (both of whom came to the franchise this past offseason) can play together in the future. “I’ve played off the ball in my career a lot, it’s not that different,” Thomas told Hoops Rumors and other media in attendance after Sunday’s game. “It’s a different dynamic. I like playing off the ball, switching it up…Ish is a hell of a guard who changes the pace of the game and definitely finds everybody that is open. Hopefully, we can make that lineup happen a little more because I think it’s dynamic if we get used to playing together.”
  • Thomas offered advice for 2018 No. 15 overall pick Troy Brown Jr., who has struggled with his shot recently. “Continue to work, it’s 82 games. You’re going to have good ones, bad ones, going to have a lot of them,” the veteran said. “You’ve got to continue, no matter how good your games are. I always say the best players have the shortest memories, whether good or bad.”