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76ers' Ish Smith stays grounded with calls to his mother

LOS ANGELES - Ish Smith called his mother, Gwen, in North Carolina for encouragement and guidance before the 76ers played the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night.

LOS ANGELES - Ish Smith called his mother, Gwen, in North Carolina for encouragement and guidance before the 76ers played the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night.

The point guard will do it again right before Tuesday's game against the Sacramento Kings and Wednesday's matchup against the Denver Nuggets.

For Smith, a pregame conversation with his mother is a routine that the journeyman has stuck with for his five-year career.

"She gets on me," Smith said before the game at the Staples Center. "She is kind of like, 'Listen to coach. Figure out who's hot, who's not.' My mom doesn't know much about the game. But she's been around it enough to know some specific things."

Gwen says her son should always be accountable and never blame others in times of adversity. If she thinks he had a subpar game, Smith hears about it during their postgame phone conversations, which also are routine.

"When I was with Oklahoma City, I played a game. I think I went 2 for 4 [shooting]," Smith said. "We lost by four and she was like, 'If you made those baskets, y'all would have went into overtime.' That's just how she is. That's just how she raised us."

Gwen and Larry Smith also raised their four children to never give up on their dreams. Smith, 26, was an undrafted player out of Wake Forest who had strongly considered another career.

"I was like, 'Man, thank God I graduated from Wake. I can walk somewhere and get a desk job,' " said Smith, who graduated with a degree in religion. "But my family has been great. My mom, dad, brother and sisters, they kind of constantly said, 'Man, don't you want to play? You'd better keep going, man.' There were times [when I thought,] 'How much longer can this go?' "

Smith has had his fair share of area codes while playing for eight teams.

After he was not selected in the 2010 draft, he signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets. Unable to get meaningful minutes, Smith was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in February 2011.

He has played behind solid point guards for most of his career and that has contributed to his inability to earn extended minutes. He also saw limited action during short stints with the Golden State Warriors, the Orlando Magic, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Phoenix Suns, and the Thunder.

On Feb. 19, Oklahoma City traded him the New Orleans Pelicans, who immediately released him. The Sixers claimed him off waivers three days later.

He made his third consecutive start (and fourth overall) with the Sixers on Sunday night. The 6-foot guard was averaging 11.6 points, 6.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds in 24.5 minutes through 14 games.

A native of Charlotte, Smith has been more effective as a starter. He upped his averages to 17.7 points and 7.7 assists in that role heading into the game with Lakers.

Smith's contact expires at the conclusion of the season. He would welcome continuing his career with the Sixers.

"But obviously during the summer you figure all that stuff out," Smith said. "I don't really pay attention to that until the summer comes. The one thing I do [now] is ask: 'What can I do to get better this next game?' "

His mother is more than willing to provide the answer over the phone.