SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The 76ers love it.
They love that they have been playing better. They love that Ish Smith is back as their point guard. They love that opposing teams are once against saying it's hard to match their energy and effort.
So as reporters descended on their locker room after their second win in three games, a game in which they frustrated the host Sacramento Kings, the Sixers displayed a glow that has only been present recently.
"We've got a different Vibe," JaKarr Sampson said Wednesday night after a 110-105 victory at Sleep Train Arena. "We've got our swag back. We are walking around like we are the big kids on the block. I love it."
The truth for the Sixers (3-31) has always been same. They feed off their energy, athleticism, desire and transition game. However, their energy and desire was understandably starting to take a hit as they won just one game in their first 31 tries.
But they received a Christmas Eve gift that changed everything. That's when the Sixers reacquired Smith from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for two second-round picks. The Sixers originally claimed the point guard off waivers in February but chose not to re-sign him in the offseason.
Now, suddenly they have a legitimate chance to post their third victory in four games Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. They also would sweep the season series with the Lakers (6-27). The Sixers' first victory of the season was a 103-91 decision against the Lakers on Dec. 1 at the Wells Fargo Center. That game kicked off the retirement farewell tour for future Hall of Famer and former Lower Merion High School star Kobe Bryant.
"We are clicking now, especially with Ish being back," Sampson said. "We know how Ish and Nerlens [Noel] play together. They are clicking. Nerlens is taking his game to a whole 'nother level.
"We are competing. We are fighting. No easy buckets to the rim. We are competing now."
Smith is averaging 18 points and 8.3 assists in the three games since his return. The sixth-year veteran has been causing fits for opposing teams with his ability to push tempo, get to the rim and find teammates.
Power forward Carl Landry said Smith's "pace, decision-making and experience" separate him from the other point guard on the roster.
"He's an extension of coach [Brett] Brown out there," said Landry, a ninth-year veteran. "Sometimes when you have guys like [backup rookie point guard] T.J. [McConnell], not taking anything away him, he just doesn't have experience."
Smith finished with 18 points, nine assists and just one turnover against the Kings.
"Ish Smith has made them a pretty good, confident team," Kings coach George Karl said. "They've got weapons. They've got youth. They've got athleticism and they're long as hell and they play hard."
They've also got Noel, who has benefited the most from playing with Smith.
The 6-foot-11, 223-pounder averaged 9.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.04 blocks before the trade. He is averaging 17.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, three steals and 2.3 blocks since then.
"I think we are really rolling," Noel said. "Coach Brown has put us in a better position to win some games and be productive. I think this team has been playing well together as of late. . . . It's starting to click."