Shortly after the Magic defeated the Wizards on Wednesday night the Magic waived veteran guard Larry Hughes.
Hughes played in nine games and averaged 1.3 points per game in 12.7 minutes per game. His play came under a sharper microscope after the injury to Jameer Nelson in the last three games. Hughes played in 14.3 minutes per game the last three games, averaging 1.7 points per game and shot two for seven from the floor.
Wednesday’s game seemed to be more of the same from Hughes. But it was getting a little clearer that Hughes was not giving what Orlando needed from a third point guard. That is namely a player who could come in play defense, stay aggressive offensively, hit 3-pointers and, most importantly, be able to play bench minutes effectively when Jameer Nelson inevitably gets injured.
Orlando’s second unit has struggled mightily throughout the season. Hughes was not doing much to help that with an absolutely unreal -5.6 PER. Yes, that is a negative PER.
Wednesday’s game did not help much.
The second unit struggled again turning what might have been a runaway earlier in the season into a tight game throughout. The Magic’s offense looked as clueless as it had the last week during the stretch Hughes was in the game in the second quarter. When Chris Duhon got hit in the face and had to leave the game in the fourth quarter, Stan Van Gundy did not go back to Hughes. Instead he used Von Wafer, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu to run the point at the end of the game.
When Hughes got a chance to go in, he had a puzzling turnover underneath Orlando’s basket that helped Washington cut the lead by five points in a matter of seven seconds. It shrunk the Magic’s lead to four and led to a frantic final minute. Orlando executed and got the win. And that ended up being Hughes’ final play in a Magic uniform.
The rumors began swirling around Amway Center during the game that the Magic would have a new third-string point guard very soon. Hughes’ departure freed up the roster space for that player.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports was the first to report that player appears to be Ishmael Smith. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel and Brian Serra of Magic Basketball Online confirmed this report from Amway Center on Wednesday night.
Smith recently signed with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the D-League after a very short stint with the Warriors this season. He played in six games for Golden State this year and averaged 4.5 points per game while shooting 40 percent from the floor and 40 percent from beyond the arc in 10.5 minutes per game. For his career, Smith averages 9.1 points per 36 minutes, is shooting 37.9 percent from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
In two years (he played with Houston and Memphis last year), Smith has not gotten a lot of playing time. He could get some run in the coming days with the Magic as they wait for Jameer Nelson to come back from his concussion.
In the D-League last year, he played in eight games and averaged 12.5 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent and dishing out 7.9 assists per game.
Really, it seems the 6-foot point guard needs a chance. We will see if he gets that chance in Orlando and how quickly he understands the team’s concepts (again, not a lot of practice time right now). It is vitally important for the Magic to get a solid point guard right now. Especially one who can bring the ball up quickly and get the team into its offense.
Certainly, Smith will see more open 3-pointers. Time to see what he can do.