Ish Smith Providing On-Demand Energy for Suns

Barry Gossage/NBAE

Ish Smith doesn’t know when he will play. Often there is no rhyme or reason to his time on the court. He’s usually a lock for double-figure minutes (at least 12 minutes in 12 of last 13 games), but how they come can be as unpredictable as Smith’s dribble moves in the paint.

Against Indiana last week, the six-foot speedster stayed in warm-ups in the entire first half. In the second, he played an entire quarter plus an additional two minutes, spearheading the bench’s effort to turn a decent lead into a blowout margin.

The season has been as unpredictable as a single game. Since Eric Bledsoe went down with a knee injury, Smith’s minutes have skyrocketed in the month of January, jumping from 5.8 per game in December to 16.7 per contest this month. It’s a big reason Dragic has been able to keep his minutes down Bledsoe being out.

“If Ish is playing well, we keep him in there and get those guys rested,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek.

Smith’s presence on the court is a big vote of confidence from Hornacek, who needs more from his point guards than any other position in order to make his high octane offense go. Dragic or Bledsoe were on the floor at all times before the latter’s injury, ensuring that the ball could always find the first and fastest gear in the Suns’ offensive engine.

Leandro Barbosa lent a hand in that regard this month, but Smith’s aggressiveness as a pass-first point guard has kept Hornacek from relying too much, too soon on Barbosa’s arrival.

“He’s been making some good decisions,” Hornacek said of Smith. “Sometimes he’ll take the runner or the layup. Other times he’ll kick it to a big guy or a wing man for the shot.”

Smith acknowledged his recent increase in production and playing time matter-of-factly, stating that he and the rest of his teammates on the bench “have all been prepared” by the coaching staff.

Even after a good game, however, the fourth-year guard laughingly admits he still gets his fair share of criticism from his family at home.

“They’re like, ‘we expect you to do that. You still missed a lot of easy shots around the basket,’” Smith laughed. “They stay on me. That’s what I love about my family. They stay on me to always try to reach my maximum potential.”