Smith’s Road to the NBA

Photo by MARY E. JONES

Photo by MARY E. JONES

Russ Smith helped UofL to the 2013 National Championship. He was the 47th pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s played in a total of 27 NBA games over the last two seasons for New Orleans and Memphis. Smith starred last season playing for Delaware in the National Basketball Association Developmental League. On March 23, Smith scored a D League record 65 points for the 87ers.

What’s next?
I waited to play summer league, so I’m waiting on a few phone calls and just see where I land and try to get back in the NBA. The NBA is a good feeling, and I want to get back there.

Are you looking to stay with the Sixers organization or make a move somewhere else?
I’ll be looking to another organization, plus I’ll be a free agent. This will be the first time I really get to pick and choose a team. I’ll be able to pick one that suits my style more and that will let me be me. The last two years have been a great experience, and I’ve worked hard. Myself, Memphis, New Orleans – we all worked to get to where I want to be as a player, but I think this being my third year, I’ll be able to really flourish in a system that I pick. So it’s all in my hands now.

What teams are on your wish list?
I’ve been talking to the Clippers, looking to do their mini camp. I’ve spoken with Portland, and Portland looks like the frontrunner. I’ve spoken with a bunch of other teams too, Minnesota or Indiana, so we’ll see. I think at this point, it’ll be Portland.

What are your impressions of the current UofL team?
I think they’ll be fine next season. They’re a defensive team, and Coach P is going to have them straight, and obviously, them sitting out this year was unfortunate. I really wish the university wouldn’t have pulled the trigger so soon because all of the stuff is fiction. It’s not true at all. It was just sad. They had a good team to make a run, and hopefully next year, they can make up for it.

Do you have another camp coming up?
Yes, the camp is very important, definitely going to need campers. We want people to come out and support us for sure. Myself, Peyton and everybody are coming back. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be here, and that’s basically what it is. It’s kycampofchampions.com. Sign up, it’ll be myself, Peyton, Terry Rozier. We’ll try and bring Gorgui down. It’s the Cardinal week, doing a whole bunch of area stuff and appearances, and I think it would be really good for the city of Louisville to come and support it as if it was a Cardinal basketball game or the way Fourth Street was when we went to the Final Four and won the championship.

What are the dates?
The dates are June 21-23. I also have the golf scramble on June 20 at Hunting Creek that’s going to be fantastic. We already have close to 20 teams. We need teams to sign up, and we need more donors for the foundation. We have a silent auction after the golf scramble. That website is russdiculousgolfscramble.com.

What was it like to score 65 in one game?
It was a lot of fun, but I kind of set the bar high for myself, and I knew it was an ESPN game. I just wanted to play hard and whatever happened, it happened. It just ended up being a great night for me.

What are the biggest differences between the NBA and the NBDL?
I would say definitely the following, obviously the crowd and everything. The flights and the hotels, the traveling. The D league, it’s a grind. There’s no other way to put it. You want to be in the NBA, and that’s something I intend to get back to.

How frustrating was it that you didn’t get a chance in the Sixers organization?
I was frustrated in the worst way. I don’t think there was anybody more frustrated than me. I’m leading the league in assists, so I’m doing that, and I’m leading the league in scoring, and I’m probably leading the league in steals. I had some 40 point, 10 assist games. I had a 65 and 50 point game, a 30 and 20 assist game. I averaged 16 assists for two weeks, and I was just thinking, All right, I don’t know what you all want me to do.

You’ve guarded Steph Curry, what’s that like?
It’s annoying. That’s the most annoying thing probably in the world. What I tried to do, I know he was looking for a three, I just tried to stay behind him and make it difficult for him to just get into his shot, but he moves so well without the ball. Just to keep up with him is hard, and then, he makes those half court shots, and it feels like he’s putting a stake in your heart. I feel like he wants to shoot threes and their offense runs off of him doing that, and if he can beat me making 15 high arcing floaters, then he’ll have to do that. That’s better than eight threes. VT