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August 07, 2018

Zhaire Smith suffers Jones fracture during workout in Las Vegas, will undergo surgery

Sixers rookie wing Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot in Las Vegas and will undergo surgery later this week to correct the issue, a team source confirmed to PhillyVoice on Tuesday afternoon.

Smith suffered the injury while participating in a skills camp run by former NBA assistant coach Tim Grgurich. Yahoo's Shams Charania was the first to report the extent of the injury and the scheduling of the surgery.

A representative for the Sixers told PhillyVoice that the Sixers own specialists had not yet seen Smith, though that doesn't change the likelihood of surgery in any case. It should be noted, however, that until such a visit and consultation occurs, any timetable floated on Smith's return to play should be taken with a grain of salt.

For those of you asking the question, "What is Smith doing at a camp in Las Vegas?" Grgurich's camp is fairly infamous in NBA circles, both for the personnel who tend to show up there and how little outsiders actually know about it. It's completely closed to the media, so any public information stemming from the summit is typically coming second or third hand.

Current Georgia men's basketball coach Tom Crean actually gave a rare inside look at the camp earlier this winter, and described it as, "the most important days of the basketball season."

I want to be careful not to say too much here. Gurg, as he is known, is a cult figure in basketball, a real guru, revered by coaches and players. But he’s an intensely private person. This camp attracts some of the best and biggest names in the league, 90 coaches and 90 players. But it’s closed to media. 

 It’s also closed to college coaches so, in the past, I had never been able to attend. This time, Gurg invited me as a guest. I left more convinced than ever that: 

 a) It’s a magical time. b) These are three of the most important days of the basketball season. c) Gurg might be unknown to most basketball fans, but he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s how deeply he has influenced the sport. 

 Players who come in after summer league and figure they’ll go through the motions are in for a surprise. They endure NBA-style workouts, and the games are definitely not pickup games. Mostly, there are situation drills. Down three with two seconds left. One-point game and no timeouts. On the free throw line with no time remaining and a chance to tie. You name it, it’s covered. The idea: Prepare for different circumstances while remaining flexible. Because that’s how it’s going to be in the NBA.

So it's a shame Smith will miss out on all there is to learn during the yearly boot camp, and that his primary takeaway is going to be joining the injury club formed by the Sixers' first-round picks over the years.

That will be the headline many will run with here. There's nothing the Sixers did or have done that contributed to Smith ending up in the first-year injury club, but boy is this familiar territory for the franchise. 

Outside of 2015 draftee Jahlil Okafor — who would eventually suffer a knee injury that shut down his rookie year — every top draftee during the Process era has either come in with a pre-existing injury or suffered some sort of malady in the offseason leading up to their would-be rookie years. This year the Sixers even double-dipped, with fellow first-round pick Landry Shamet bowing out of Summer League due to a sprained right ankle.

Sixers fans should be familiar with the Jones fracture diagnosis, having gone through the process with former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons. The most common procedure to deal with the issue is the insertion of a screw into the broken foot in an effort to stabilize the foot around the injured area. Because the fracture has a higher chance of reinjury than other foot breaks, teams often choose to go the surgery route straight away.

The usual quote on recovery time you'll hear is about six to eight weeks (and frequently ends up longer when accounting for return to NBA-level fitness) but as we saw in Simmons' case, a lot of it can come down to how conservatively the team wants to handle the problem.

We'll have more on how this impacts the Sixers and their rotation coming shortly, and since you've all been part of this rodeo before, feel free to start mashing the panic button.

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