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NBA PM: Smart Staying Focused Amidst NBA Talk
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On July 30, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In NBA | No Comments
This offseason, Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart passed on an opportunity to almost undoubtedly be a top five selection in the 2013 NBA Draft. Staying in school used to be encouraged, but in Smart’s case it was highly questioned and criticized.
To his credit, Smart made his decision, never wavered and immediately started preparing for what he hopes will be a potential title run in 2013-14. But, when draft night came rolling around in June, he couldn’t help but momentarily think about what could have been.
“I was actually over in Russia, the Czech Republic with the under 19 team,” Smart said to HOOPSWORLD. “We were trying to watch it, keeping updated on my phone and stuff. It was a little emotional I’m not going to lie. It was a little emotional, especially when you got guys running into your room saying dang that should have been you up there, kind of joking around with me and stuff. It was a little emotional but at the same time, it’s life; it goes on. I made my decision, it’s over. I’m not going to sit here and say what if this because regardless of what decision I made I still would have been what iffin, I’m just going to let it play out. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.”
Smart earned a gold medal with the Team USA’s U19 squad in the FIBA U19 World Championships and performed well enough to parlay that into an invitation to the senior team’s mini-camp.
“It wasn’t really a big transition because in order to earn respect you have to give it,” Smart said. “These guys, they’ve paid their dues and went through it to get where they’re at. I have to take a backseat and learn from those guys. It’s been a great day, first day of practice has been incredible. In the scrimmage got up and down, it’s incredible how much those guys who have won championships, have all-star appearances, they trust me, hit me with the ball, give me passes, allow me to run the point guard position, take it and lead the team as a point guard and call the plays. It’s incredible.”
Spending a week practicing against and learning from current pros was critical for Smart because next year he’s going to be held to a pro’s standards. He may just be a sophomore in college, but he’s going to be looked at as a pro because he was good enough at the end of last season for a team to invest a very high lottery pick in him. If he thought his decision to stay in school was highly criticized, wait until his first game against quality competition when he doesn’t shoot well and turns it over at a high rate. The negativity will start to pour then, but Smart’s been taught well on how to handle what he’ll be facing next season.
“I just need to go out there and play my game,” Smart said. “If I’m worrying about whether my stock is going to drop or what is going to happen to me next year then I’m not playing my game and everything will fall. I’m just going to let everything fall into place. I’m going to play every game like it’s my last like I’ve been doing and go out there and have fun doing it.”
Had Smart decided to declare and leave school early, a loss to Oregon in OSU’s NCAA Tournament opener would have been the final game of his college career. That game, perhaps more than anything, is why Smart is not a pro right now.
“My expectations are high because we do have key players coming back with a lot to prove and a chip on our shoulder,” Smart said. “We didn’t do very good in the NCAA Tournament, we lost in the first round to Oregon. Probably should have beat them even though they were a 12 seed that should have been a higher seed, that’s no excuse. You come out every day to play and we didn’t come out to play that day. We beat ourselves. Give all the credit to Oregon, they ran their stuff, did what they’re supposed to do and came ready to play. That left a bad taste in our mouths.”
Blair, Mavericks Come To Terms: The Dallas Mavericks have agreed to a one-year deal, presumably for the veteran’s minimum, with free agent forward DeJuan Blair.
Blair was a projected lottery pick out of Pittsburgh, but slipped on draft night due to concerns about his knees, which do not have ACLs. He landed with the San Antonio Spurs, a situation that was perfect for him at first.
Looking like yet another draft-night steal for the Spurs early on his career, Blair eventually fell out of favor with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. He went from being a starter in his second year to out of the rotation during the playoffs. That trend carried over to his third season and in this past year, his fourth in the league, he was basically relegated to a non-meaningful role, playing just 14 minutes a game in the regular season and six in the playoffs. He only saw action in 12 of the Spurs’ 22 playoff games.
The Spurs tried diligently to trade Blair at the February trade deadline. However, they were unable to find a team willing to give them a first-round pick in return, but it’s been clear for well over a year now that both sides were ready for a mutual break up.
Blair’s best game last season was actually against the Mavericks on January 25 when he put up 22 points and 10 rebounds in just 19 minutes while helping the Spurs pick up the road victory. The hope is that the move to the American Airlines Center for the next year can lead to more performances like that.
In San Antonio, Blair’s role diminished because of his shortcomings on the defensive end and his limited offensive arsenal. He’s still a quality rebounder and blue collar low post player, though, and with the Mavericks he should get a little more leeway than he’s received in recent years.
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