Ish Smith always finds joy in playing basketball


The Wizards had just lost to the Boston Celtics by 42 points, their largest defeat in five years, yet the perpetually positive Ish Smith was ready to share some silver linings.

He would prefer the team to be in a better position at this point in the season, competing for a playoff spot as they were last year, and expressed that. But he also explained how he can ultimately find joy even in the lower moments of his professional life as an NBA player.

Smith is 33 and in his 12th NBA season, so he's been around long enough to experience plenty, but also to know that careers are finite and often fleeting. Smith never expected to still be here after going undrafted out of Wake Forest University. Not many who follow that path are still standing 12 years later and especially those who only stand 6-feet tall.

The Wizards are playing out the string of another losing season and just got demolished by one of the hottest teams in the league. Still, there is a glass-half-full way of viewing things.

"It's a game. You've gotta keep everything in perspective... When we step out on the floor, I thank the Lord every day, honestly, that we get an opportunity to play this game," he said.

While the Wizards lost on Sunday afternoon, Smith provided one of the few bright spots with 16 points, five assists and two steals. He showed off the traits which have kept him in the league for so long.

Smith flew up and down the court, shifting side-to-side to keep Celtics defenders off-balance, and dropped in a series of deft shots around the rim. He went 8-for-10 from the field in 28 minutes of action.

Representing the bright side of a loss has been a familiar role for Smith throughout his career and especially with the Wizards in recent years. Last season, he was on a playoff team led by Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, but he was also here for 2019-20 when they finished 22 games under .500. 

When Smith arrived at the trade deadline from the Hornets, back in Washington for his third stint with the franchise, he said the goal was the postseason. The Wizards have fallen short of that, as they were eliminated from play-in contention last week.

The priorities may have shifted, but Smith isn't going to change his approach to the game. He can still find appreciation in each moment on the court and part of the reason why is the advice he has received from former NBA players.

"A lot of guys when they're done playing, that's the first thing they think about. Like, man, they want to be back in the locker room with the guys," he said.

Smith doesn't want the ride to end anytime soon. He's technically under contract with the Wizards next season, though it's not guaranteed. The Wizards could cut him loose before July 1 and leave him searching for a new home. If he happened to leave, he could become the first player in NBA history to play for 13 different teams.

If Smith has it his way, however, he won't be going anywhere.

"I'd like to be here. I've got a team option, so if you want to call [team president] Tommy [Sheppard] and tell him," Smith said.

Whether that ends up happening is anyone's guess. Perhaps working in Smith's favor is the team doesn't have any other point guards under contract for next season. Both Tomas Satoransky and Raul Neto are unrestricted free agents.

The team will be in the market for a starting point guard, but they will also need some backups. Maybe Smith can find a way to stick around once again.

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