Early in his career, Ish Smith embraced the mentality that his next action will be his best.
Smith, a 34-year-old point guard who has spent 13 seasons in the NBA on the move, has benefited from this mindset. NBA record, he has played for 13 different teams. He has been seven times traded and six times released.
Last Wednesday, when he played for the Denver Nuggets, for whom he was traded in June, Smith officially set the record for having played for the most clubs.
Smith has never had a permanent residence due to his nomadic basketball lifestyle. Rather, the NBA as a whole has become his home in a sense: For more than a decade, he has consistently joined new clubs. It tells something about the 6-foot, 175-pound reserve guard that he continues to find employment and land on teams willing to take him despite his numerous movements.
Bob Beyer, who coached Ish Smith as an assistant with the Detroit Pistons from 2016 to 2018, remarked, “One thing you could always count on with Ish was that he would bring terrific passion and excitement to the building every single day.” It did not matter whether it was a practice, a shoot-around, or a game; he has an incredible passion for the sport.
Ish Smith. Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Managing disorder professionally
2010 was Smith’s debut in the NBA, when he joined the Houston Rockets as an undrafted free agent. Smith played for nine clubs between 2010 and 2016, including the Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors, Magic, Bucks, Suns, back to the Rockets, Thunder, and 76ers.
The “Transactions” portion of Smith’s Basketball-Reference profile resembles a pattern: sign a contract with one team, get waived, sign a new contract with another team, then get moved.
Smith learnt tactics of the journeyman trade along the way. When he arrived in new places, he signed month-to-month leases on flats and rented furniture. In the early phases of Smith’s work, before he married or had children, relocation was very simple.
Smith refers to the years beginning in 2016 as his “slow” years, but they have only been marginally less hectic. Between 2016 and 2019, he spent three seasons with the Pistons. He signed a one-year deal with the Wizards in 2019-20, a two-year deal with the Hornets for 2020-21, and was then traded back to the Wizards last season. This past summer, he was dealt to the Nuggets by Washington.
In 2010, Ish Smith began his career with the Rockets.
Bill Baptist/NBAE Images via Getty
Smith has never expressed displeasure with his winding trip.
“When I entered the NBA, the roller coaster journey began,” Smith told Insider. “But I never let that upset me.” “I simply thought, alright, this is a part of my path. Let me just keep pushing and keep going. Because I believe you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t push through difficult situations.”
Professionalism is an integral aspect of Smith’s philosophy, which he received from his parents. Smith is a Concord, North Carolina native. His parents had a janitorial firm and contracted with hotels and other businesses to do cleaning services. Smith stated that his parents were successful but yet required him to earn his own living. Smith remembered working with his father to install baseboards in a high school in order to get his first automobile, a 1993 Honda Accord.
Smith stated, “You control what you can control.” “I believe that you cannot always control what the front office does, but you can control your play, how hard you work, and who you are as a person. People are always talking about professionalism; I believe that reflects your character. In addition, my parents raised me to be a professional.”
He can also play.
However, Smith laughs at the notion that he has survived entirely on his character and leadership.
In an interview with Ava Wallace of The Washington Post earlier in 2022, Smith also defended his on-court abilities: “My character kept me in the league, which is a testament to my parents. However, I eventually play basketball. This is not a contest of character.”
When Insider inquired about the remark, Smith laughed and stated that he was having fun with the reporter. But the sentiment remains unchanged.
Smith stated, “In order to remain in the league, I had to be able to play.”
Ish Smith is a competent backup guard.
Stephen Gosling/NBAE sourced from Getty Images
Indeed, Smith has flourished as a dependable backup point guard, a position that is exceedingly difficult to fill. In his career, he has averaged 7.6 points, 3.9 assists, and a 43.0% field goal percentage.
When given the opportunity to play extended minutes, he has produced impressive statistics. In 2020, he scored 32 points for the Wizards. He has reached double-digit assists 25 times throughout his career.
Smith is not a great shot, but he has a tight handle and lightning-fast speed.
Beyer commended Smith’s play speed, describing him as a “automatic fast break.”
“Oftentimes, teams could be playing at a particular tempo, but as soon as Ish entered the game, the pace accelerated automatically. And you had better be prepared for this or you’ll be left behind.”
In recent seasons, Smith has played more minutes and produced somewhat more points, a surprising development for a guard with a shorter career stature.
Smith attributes a portion of his success to taking better care of his body as he has aged. He acknowledges that he should still eat healthier, but he has taken strides to modify his diet, eliminating favorite foods such as macaroni and cheese and visits to Bojangles.
Smith said with a giggle, “I adore Bojangles, but I can’t eat it like I used to.” “This does not work for me.”
Now playing for a probable title contender in the Nuggets — probably the first time Smith has had a legitimate chance to win a championship — Smith took his offseason training more seriously.
Smith returned to North Carolina last summer and participated in grueling two-a-days. Smith would exercise in the mornings and play basketball with international professionals. After spending the day with his family, he would return to the gym to lift and conduct conditioning with a strength coach, doing a variety of agility drills, battle ropes, ball slams, and bicycle circuits.
“I am not really fond of conditioning… I would actually do it outside in the heat and humidity of Charlotte, North Carolina, which made things ten times more difficult “Smith stated.
He would then shoot one hundred additional shots on a basketball hoop outside his home.
Ish Smith, the journeyman mentor, has earned the respect of his entire crew.
Stephen Gosling/NBAE sourced from Getty Images
According to Smith, one advantage of his haphazard career was the opportunity to learn from a multitude of veterans. Smith enumerated hundreds of players whom he credited for supporting him during his journey.
According to Smith, the locker room dynamic in the NBA has altered due in part to the younger age at which players now enter the league.
“When you look around the locker room now, everyone is around 24, 27, and 26, and they are your veterans,” Smith said, adding, “When I entered the locker room, everyone was my age. Everyone was between 32 and 34. And they had only been in the league for 12, 13 years, with four or five more years remaining.”
Blake Griffin and Ish Smith in 2018.
Carlos Osorio/AP Images
Now 34 years old, Smith is the veteran in the locker room who can mentor younger players. His common counsel to players? They must abandon their egos, accept coaching, and find a position.
“Regardless of what others may say, you must find a role. Even those who score are scorers “Smith stated.
He continued, “Finding your niche and fitting in is what gives you longevity.”
The longevity of Smith is what has gained him the admiration of his peers.
When Ish initially entered the NBA, he never had a guaranteed deal, according to Beyer. “He was frequently transferred and signed numerous one-year contracts. Then, I believe it was in Detroit when he signed his first long-term contract, and as he matured and became older, I believe league players had such a huge amount of regard for him that his voice in locker rooms carried much more weight over time.”
Smith acknowledges that all of his NBA stops have been part of God’s plan for his life. But even after extensive travel and living in cities he never imagined, he wouldn’t mind settling in Denver.
If Smith could remain in Denver for the next five or six years, he would be content. “My wife and children appreciate it immensely. Therefore, if I could remain here, it would indicate that we have won. That indicates that I played well. That is something that would be extremely desirable.”