According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Zhaire Smith ‘has started his return’ to the Sixers:
Sources @TheAthleticNBA @WatchStadium: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith has started his return process to the team after broken foot and allergy issue, being assigned to G League Delaware for non-contact elements of practice. He’ll ramp up activities as weeks progress.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 24, 2019
Big news. Good news. Happy news.
Some feared Zhaire Smith would not play at all this year. This doesn’t guarantee he will, but it’s a damn good sign, and I fully expect him to play on the Wells Fargo Center court this season.
Smith is a rookie and he was drafted as sort of a raw project. For example, he was a big during high school ball, and often defended bigs at the college level, despite being built like a guard. Because of that build, he figures to be utilized primarily as a slashing wing or guard in the NBA. Also, Brett Brown has stated that he believes Zhaire has the form and foundation to become a reliable shooter, but by no means was Smith a ‘shooter’ at Texas Tech. So Smith may find himself in a different role than he’s used to, and to expect him to be a major difference maker for the Sixers is a bit much, in some respects. But in other ways, his very presence might provide a ton of value. Upon his return, the Sixers are immediately deeper. More importantly, while Zhaire should need time to figure out how to fit in offensively, he has the athletic ability and basketball IQ to be an effective defender. Holding him back from achieving a high level of effectiveness though could be conditioning. Being ultra atheltic is one thing; sustaining the requisite level of athleticism is another. Smith may need time to get into peak playing shape.
All in all, this is very exciting news.
UPDATE (12:28 pm):
According to a Sixers press release, Justin Patton is also returning to the court. Both he and Zhaire Smith will practice with the Delaware Blue Coats for the time being:
PHILADELPHIA – JAN. 24, 2019 – The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that Justin Patton and Zhaire Smith have both been assigned to the Delaware Blue Coats of the NBA G League.
Patton, who is returning from right foot surgery, will begin practicing with the Blue Coats with limited and controlled contact, while Smith, who suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot, will begin by participating in the non-contact elements of the Blue Coats practices. The pair will be with the Blue Coats while the 76ers embark on a four-game Western Conference road trip.
I like what the Sixers are doing here. The odds that both Patton and Smith were medically ready to return at the same exact time are low. This seems intentional, as if one was held out until the other was also ready to go. Now I’m not saying, for example, that Patton was cleared a month ago and they held him out anyway. But maybe one player was cleared a few days ago or a week or two ago. The idea possibly being that Smith and Patton, rather than feeling like they aren’t on the same wave length as any of their teammates or have fallen behind from a chemistry standpoint, return to the court together so they have each other to relate to and to experience this process with.
..Maybe my imagination is getting carried away.