BOSTON — Zhaire Smith will tell you he’s oblivious to all the outside noise.
With all the talk about the 76ers needing reserve backcourt upgrades, Smith’s stay in Philadelphia could be in its final days. League sources have said the team is willing to part ways with the second-year player. One source even expects any deal the Sixers make will involve the reserve guard.
But Smith doesn’t appear the least bit concerned. In fact, the Texas native has publicly said he’s not paying attention to possible trade scenarios.
“I kind of don’t hear it,” he said, “because usually during the season I delete Twitter and Instagram unless somebody tells me. A lot of people don’t have my number, so people don’t tell me.
“So I just keep my head up.”
Smith said the only thing on his mind is grinding and getting better.
But he has to realize that he’s at least being showcased leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Buried on the depth chart, Smith wasn’t on the Sixers’ active roster in the preseason. He spent most of the season with the team’s NBA G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.
However, he was called up after Josh Richardson suffered a slight hamstring strain against Toronto on Jan. 22.
Instead of being an end-of-the-bench body, Smith was one of the first players off the bench in last Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center. His first appearance of the season lasted just 2 minutes, 58 seconds after suffering a sprained left ankle in the first quarter.
But he followed that up by remaining in the rotation in Tuesday’s home tilt against Golden State and Thursday’s game in Atlanta.
Due to an injury, an ailment, and having to learn a new position, Smith hasn’t lived up to his draft-day hype.
Right now, it appears the Sixers gave up too much for a guy they stashed in the G-League.
They selected the Villanova and Great Valley High School product Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NBA draft. But 38 minutes later, the Sixers traded him to the Phoenix Suns for Smith, the 16th overall pick. The Sixers also received the Miami Heat’s 2021 first-round pick in the trade. They were always interested in Smith, just not at No. 10.
At the time, Sixers coach Brett Brown said Smith reminded him of a young Kawhi Leonard. The Los Angeles Clippers small forward has a good relationship with Brown from their days together with the San Antonio Spurs.
“There are some similarities with his length,” Brown said of Smith and the 6-foot-7 Leonard. “There are some similarities with his athleticism. I think that when you look at just where I believe Zhaire can be, there are some common denominators that Kawhi had when we first brought him to San Antonio.”
The 6-foot-3 Smith, who played power forward in his lone season at Texas Tech, didn’t make his NBA debut until March 25, 2019.
He was initially sidelined with an acute Jones fracture in his left foot. He remained out of the lineup due to the lingering effects of an allergic reaction to something he ate months earlier.