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    Photo courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies' Facebook Page
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    If his performance in the NBA Summer League is any indication, Russ Smith looks like he’s ready to be a contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies next season.

    The former University of Louisville All-American led the Grizzlies to the championship, as well as an undefeated record, in the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League, which concluded July 10 in Orlando, Fla. The 6-foot guard showed off his ability to make the big shot, as well as run a team, averaging 14.8 points and 6.2 assists in five games (four of which he started) for Memphis.

    If that didn’t help Russdiculous’ chances of seeing the court more than he did in his rookie season, then something that happened earlier this week did. Wednesday Panathinaikos BC, a Greek team, announced on Twitter that it had signed Nick Calathes to a three-year contract. The 6-6 Calathes, a former Florida standout, was the Grizzlies’ third point guard last season behind Mike Conley Jr. and Beno Udrih. Calathes averaged 4.2 points and 2.5 assists and 14.4 minutes in 58 games for Memphis. If Smith plays like he did in Orlando in training camp and the preseason, then he could have a good shot at earning Calathes’ minutes.  

    Smith, who was a second-round pick (by Philadelphia, which then traded him to New Orleans) in last June’s NBA Draft, starred in the Las Vegas summer league last year too. He averaged 16 points and a league-high 6.4 assists in five games for the Pelicans. That, however, didn’t carry over to his rookie season in the league.

    Smith played in only six regular-season games with New Orleans before being traded to Memphis in January. He then played six more games with the Grizzlies, saving his best for last. Smith scored 16 points, in only 10 minutes, against the NBA champion Golden State Warriors on April 13 in Oakland. He spent a lot of his time in the NBA Development League, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 25 games (18 with Iowa, Memphis’ affiliate).

    Smith’s development was obvious in Orlando. Not only did he shoot the ball well (50 percent from the field and 81.8 percent from the free throw line), he also played well defensively (averaging a league-high 3.2 steals per game) and appeared more comfortable distributing the ball to his teammates. That may have been most apparent in the championship game. Smith scored 15 points - including the game-winning two on a running, left-handed floater in sudden-death double-overtime - and also dished out a game-best nine assists in Memphis’ 75-73 win over the Orlando White team.  

    “I’m just trying to be the best floor general here in the summer league, that was my goal coming in. Not to necessarily lead in assists, but be the best floor general and go undefeated,” Smith, who ranked third in assists, told NBA TV after the final. “In the summer league you’ve got to understand the team you’re playing on. I’m not just going to come down and just do what I did in college, or just take guys off the dribble because I can, I’ve got to make sure I get the big fella involved.”

    Smith will likely compete with former University of Kentucky standout Andrew Harrison, who was a second-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft, to be more involved in Memphis next season. However Smith out-performed the bigger Harrison, who averaged 5.4 points and three assists per game, in Orlando so it looks like he already has the advantage there. Of course only time will tell, but things are looking good for Smith right now.

    Photo courtesy of the Memphis Grizzlies' Facebook Page

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