Haywood Highsmith has gotten a front-row seat to how cyclical the NBA can be this year.
After being signed to a two-way contract by the 76ers in January, the 6-foot-7 swingman was waived last week. But Highsmith is now a member of the Sixers’ summer league team, so he reported to training camp this week to prepare for the Las Vegas tournament scheduled to start July 5.
If not picked up by another team, Highsmith is likely to rejoin the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate, next season.
His approach during the recent practices drew praise from Blue Coats coach Connor Johnson.
“Haywood has shown some maturity,” Johnson said. “Both from a personal standpoint of how he approaches every day has been impressive but also a basketball maturity, knowing where he’s going to get his shots and where he’s going to make an impact.”
The 22-year-old Baltimore native averaged 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game with the Blue Coats. The team signed big man Norvel Pelle to a two-way contract on Monday, but also converted combo guard Shake Milton’s deal to a four-year agreement that keeps him in the NBA full-time, which leaves one two-way spot for next season open.
Highsmith, who said he took the news in stride, is looking to prove to the Sixers that he’s worth a second look.
“It’s a business, so you just have to go with it, view every adversity as a blessing,” he said. “I’m just thankful to be here.
“I’m going to play hard always and show them what I can do. If a two-way comes, that would be great, if another opportunity comes, that would be great. It’s not just about getting a two-way, it’s about playing hard and showing what I can do.”
Highsmith said he saw the biggest improvements in his defensive versatility and perimeter shooting while playing with the Blue Coats and Sixers last season. In the offseason, he regained his conditioning after recovering from a knee injury before sharpening his outside shooting.