Ever since the Sixers brought Zhaire Smith into the fold on Draft Night 2018, the now-21-year-old has experienced one setback after another. Smith suffered a broken foot during his first summer as a professional, then dealt with a food allergy reaction that became a life-threatening situation. Following his recovery, Zhaire had to undergo a nearly year-long process to regain 40 pounds and get back into basketball shape.
After all that went down, you’d need a heart of stone to not want the young man to succeed on the court. Although Smith only appeared in seven games for the Sixers this season, he had an encouraging 2019-20 campaign in the G League. Our Dave Early wrote two weeks ago about how Smith could make an impact when the team heads down to Orlando.
Alas, there’s an old saying about Philadelphia sports fans and having nice things, and whatever cursed voodoo doll is wrecking havoc on Smith’s life has struck again:
Philadelphia 76ers wing Zhaire Smith has a bone bruise in his left knee, per source. He will not travel to Orlando.— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) June 30, 2020
Smith began experiencing pain prior to the Sixers resuming workouts last week, and he started treatment immediately. He is expected to make a full recovery.
With Smith now unavailable, the Sixers’ recent signing of Ryan Broekhoff makes even more sense for additional bench depth (read Tom West’s in-depth piece from earlier today breaking down Broekhoff’s game). While you wouldn’t have anticipated Smith to be a part of a playoff rotation, it never hurts for Brett Brown to have an extra option at his disposal. Additionally, it’s entirely possible one or more games at the tail-end of this eight-game conclusion to the regular season are rendered meaningless in the standings, and might have been a good opportunity for Zhaire to get some extended run against NBA competition.
More than anything, though, you just have to feel for a guy who has overcome so much already in his short NBA career. I’m sure Smith was excited to be a part of the big club for an extended stretch in Orlando, and show a wider audience what he’s capable of doing on the court. Hope to see you at 100 percent in the winter, Zhaire.