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Nolan Smith Looking For ‘Better Situation’
Posted By Susan Bible On April 29, 2013 @ 8:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith talks about his two years in Portland and what his future holds after his 2012-13 exit interview.Watch More Video Here
It’s been a rocky path in the NBA for guard Nolan Smith of the Portland Trail Blazers. According to Smith, the two-year union with the Blazers looks to come to an end this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Did the Blazers come right out and say he would be a free agent?
“Yeah, pretty much. They made that pretty clear and you know, I’m excited for the summer,” Smith answered. “I have a great agent. A great team behind me. Add that to my great work and my passion for the game to get better every summer, and I’m going to look for a better situation next year.
“I’m excited to be a free agent. I love my two years here. A lot of ups and downs. It obviously wasn’t what I expected with everything, but a lot of changes. Coach change, GM changes, things happened along the way. This summer is going to be a great summer for me to look for a situation that better suits me and my career.”
The Blazers selected the four-year Duke product with their No. 21 pick in the 2011 Draft. The fit seemed to be right with the unselfish Smith, at 6’2, 185 lbs., bringing scoring guard experience and a 2010 NCAA championship. They liked his scrappiness and high character.
In his senior year at Duke, he averaged 20.6 points, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.5 three-pointers and 4.5 rebounds in 34.0 minutes. His shooting percentages were solid at .458 in field goals, .350 in three-pointers and .813 in free throws.
With this kind of promise, what happened in Portland?
Many factors were in play here that led to Smith not cracking the rotation. The 2011 lockout meant he didn’t get a full training camp and the 66-game season was a blur of games upon games with little practice. He averaged 3.8 points, 1.4 assists, 1.3 rebounds in 12.3 minutes of playing time. His shooting percentages were not memorable at .372 in field goals, .289 in threes and .714 in free throws.
So when this season came around, one might think with a summer working on development and a full training camp and preseason under his belt, things would turn around. They didn’t. He got even less playing time (7.2 minutes) at 2.8 points, 0.9 assists and 0.7 rebounds and the poor shooting remained at .368 in field goals, .214 in threes at .714 at the foul line.
The Blazers did not pick up his rookie option for the 2013-14 season last Fall. Some say his silly antics (Twitter rants to fans, video-bombing of broadcasts) were just over the top in immaturity. Others simply question his ability at this level.
Nevertheless, with the breakout status of Damian Lillard, then Eric Maynor coming on board, Smith was pushed out. He addressed the subject of the lack of playing time and why he never asked about it.
“When you’re in season, those talks aren’t had,” Smith shared. “Those aren’t really player-coach talks in the NBA. You just go with the flow and if your named is called, it’s called. And if it’s not, you come into practice every day and continue to work on your game.”
Smith explained how the Blazers may not have utilized his full skill set.
“I feel like at times I was trying to be a set-it-up point guard,” he said. ”If I’m going to be a point guard, I’m going to push the ball, just play basketball. The less thinking as possible. Just play.”
Now he’s looking for a better situation with a new team. What kind of a situation exactly?
“A playing situation,” Smith said chuckling. “In this league, I’ve had a chance to watch a lot of games. Playing time makes a big difference. If you get three minutes or you get 20 minutes, it’s big difference. I know how to play this game. I feel like if you put me on the court for an extended amount of time and say, ‘Go make plays’, I know how to win. I’m a winner. It will happen.”
You have to applaud his personal confidence and ability to remain positive and secure in his NBA future given his less-than-successful first two years.
“You always got to believe in yourself,” Smith said. “I’m here for a reason. I know I’m a pro. I know I can play this game. I’ve been doing it my whole life, so just knowing that and talking to my agents and knowing good things are going to come, there’s nothing to worry about. I feel great.”
Smith has no particular preference as to what kind of team he signs with in the coming months.
“I feel like I can adapt to any system,” Smith noted. “The team I go to is going to be a team that says, ‘Go out there and play defense, play basketball and make plays.’
“I want to work on everything obviously. Just being able to control the pick-and-roll, running other teams’ pick-and-rolls. I think that’s what every point guard loves to work on. Just see me develop my pick-and-roll game.”
Smith was asked if his natural position was point guard or more of a combo guard as he demonstrated at Duke.
“I’m just a guard, like a lot of the point guards in the NBA today,” Smith said. “They’re guards. They go out there, they play pick-and-roll, they score the ball, they pass when they want or pass when they have to. They just play basketball. There’s not too many true point guards out here anyways.”
Sources say several teams are interested in taking a serious look at Smith in the offseason.
“I think with Summer League, whether I go work out for a team or whatever it might be, I’ll have chances to go continue to show what I can do for a team and a situation that better suits my game. For me, it’s just stay in the gym. Let my agents work, and just continue to get in the gym and continue to develop my game.”
Smith plans to head to Durham, North Carolina to work over the summer after bidding farewell to his Blazers teammates. He said a lot of “Carolina pros” come back and that he’ll be living with and working out with ex-Duke teammate and now Cleveland Cavaliers star, Kyrie Irving.
“I feel like I’ve made enough close friends on this team where I feel like I’ll still talk to a majority of the team,” Smith said. “For those ones that you don’t really get close with, you don’t give them a hug and kiss, but you tell them you’ll see them down the road.
“Obviously these two years here were tough. But just knowing going forward that I want to be on the NBA court is all the motivation I need.”
And he was quick to point out what he learned in Portland.
“I got better. Simple as that. In the two years here, I got better,” Smith said. “Great coaching staff, always working with me on practice days, after practice, days off. Whenever you can look back and say you got better and learned a lot, that’s always a great thing.”
It seems this is one pairing that just didn’t quite work, and now it’s up to Smith to prove to another team that he can play, rather succeed, at this level.
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