Russ Smith and the New Orleans Pelicans Complete a Thrilling Comeback

Published: July 12, 2014

I get it – It’s “just” Summer League, but man was that exciting! For most of the game, those of us who watched it were forced to sit through some of the most painful offense we have witnessed since the Dan Dickau era (Sorry Schwanny), but the 4th quarter made it all worthwhile. Trailing by 17, with just about 4 minutes left, the Pelicans went on a #Russdiculous 21-2 run, led by Mr. Smith himself and won 83-81. They picked up the defensive intensity and starting draining the same shots that they had been missing all night, and as a result, all 27 people in attendance left stunned by what they had just seen.

After a brutal 1st half that saw Russ Smith start 1-7, with numerous turnovers, he calmed down and was able to finish the game with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. After the game, Smith said that the spacing threw him off in the first half because the three-point line was further out and when he blew by his man in college he was basically already at the tim, but here he was in no man’s land (the mid-range area). Smith said he adjusted at halftime, and it showed as he came out with a new swagger and confidence that helped erase a large deficit.

But the Pelicans probably wouldn’t have even been in the game if not for the efforts of Patric Young. The University of Florida star was a monster down low, grabbing 13 rebounds in just 19 minutes of play while also adding 11 points. Jeff Withey was good defensively and Josh Howard was extremely efficient with 14 points on just 6 shots. But this game was all about the spectacular fourth quarter effort by Russ Smith and his ability to will his team to victory.

Notes and Observations

– First, let’s start with how I view Summer League. I don’t care as much about production as I do about skill sets and intangibles. Those are the things I want to see because those are the things that transfer over. Josh Selby has the greatest Summer League PER of all-time, so again, production is not my top priority.

– Being as honest as possible, Russ Smith was terrible in the first half. Not mediocre or bad, but terrible. But what he said makes sense, and if he really adjusted that quickly, then this guy can be a special reserve down the line. A lot of guys would have gotten down on themselves and given up after that first half. He just saw a problem, solved it and won the game.

– Smith dribbled way too high early on for my taste, but he controlled that later in the game. The thing I was most intrigued by was his wide assortment of passes. He makes passes from multiple angles, similar to a (dar I say it?) Drew Brees. He just finds a way to get the ball where it needs to go. He threw skip passes and wrap arounds and clever bounce passes, and standard passes as well. A really fun guy to watch, especially when he goes to finish. An assortment of layups as well.

– The coaching staff wants to make Jeff Withey a big part of this Summer League offense, but he just lacks the skill down low to be a go-to option. He was much better off later on cleaning up the garbage, and honestly, that is what he would do for our team, so that is enough for me.

– The commentators could not stop raving about Patric Young, and I don’t blame them. He just does things the right way, and that isn’t normal for a rookie. Little things. Like, he was our best screen setter tonight. He also talked the most on the defensive end. And he was our best off-ball defender as well. He is limited, yes, but what he does well, he does really well.

– Of the guys outside of the main three, I can’t say that I see one who stood out tonight in a way that makes me think he has a shot at making the final roster. There were moments from several of the wing players, but never did I think I was looking at an NBA player when I was watching them. And same goes for the Select Team, save for a couple of bright moments for Tony Mitchell.

– Next game is Sunday against the Lakers. 2-0?


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