The basketball know-it-alls said ex-University of Louisville Cardinal guard Russ Smith is undersized at 6 feet tall. They said he was underweight at 165 pounds. They decided the word Russdiculous meant he was out of control. Okay, they got that partly right, however they mostly ignored the good part of the label. Namely that he can score from anywhere on the court. But he’s now packing up and moving to New Orleans via the NBA draft.
In reality, it was more complicated than that. Last night the Philadelphia 76ers used the 47th pick in the draft to add Smith to their roster. Despite the pundits, the New York native led his Cardinal team to back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances including a national championship. During the campaign last season, he earned All-American honors while becoming more rounded in his overall game.
So it’s understandable that the Based King starts his NBA career being somewhat frustrated. Some bigwigs questioned his efficiency and his ability to play point guard at the professional level. During workouts for several teams, other potential draft selections didn’t want to go against him. Was it his smothering defense or his unorthodox, and largely successful, offense? Were they scared of how Smith would make them look in front of the so-called experts? Would that decrease their draft statuses?
As every sports fan in Louisville knows, Russ Smith just wants to play. Some of those anonymous players will see him in the Association and, rather than be embarrassed in private, they will get housed for the nation to see. Should that have been the decision they made?
So the 76ers took Smith in the second round and traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans. In the Big Easy, he’ll get a chance to outshine players taken ahead of him. Take for example Shabazz Napier from UConn. He was selected 24th overall. And Smith owned him last year. Expect more of the same.
How did the Pelicans end up with him? It was a team that he didn’t even work out for. More than likely because they didn’t have any picks in this years draft. However, he did interview with them during the pre-draft process and felt comfortable. But the trade came as a surprise. He made comments to that effect to the media last night. He also wanted to make it clear that, rather than being angry, he’s very happy.
Look out Bourbon Street. Russ Smith is coming.
Photo by: Tim Girton