LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Well, we've seen this before. Russ Smith began his NBA Summer League experience by missing seven of his first eight shots and committing four first-half turnovers.
But in the second half, he took over in Russdiculous fashion, leading his New Orleans Pelicans teammates on a 21-2 fourth-quarter run to help them erase a 19-point deficit and beat an NBA D-League team 83-81. The Pelicans were down 11 and the gym was nearly empty with 3:15 left. But with Smith on the court, it's usually wise to stay till the end.
Smith made seven of his last nine shots in the game and finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds (the most he ever had in a game at Louisville was 7), along with 5 assists and three steals. Half of his points came in the fourth quarter.
He credited his early struggles with adjusting to more athletic defenders.
"When I beat my man at the college free-throw line, I usually get into a layup, but when I beat my man at the free-throw line here, I'm in the midrange, and I was kind of thrown off," Smith told NBA TV after the game. "So I just started watching some of the other players and where they were taking off. I'm humble enough to learn from my opponents."
Smith said he was patient after the bad start, and credited former Louisville teammate Peyton Siva for preaching patience to him in their many conversations.
"We all just wanted to play defense," Smith said. "We knew we had a talented group. I'm around a bunch of veteran guys and they talked me through it. I learned a lot of this stuff from Peyton Siva, just the poise down the stretch. We text a lot, he tells me to keep my patience, find a balance, get in the lane and find my teammates."
Smith did just that on the game winner, driving the right side of the lane and drawing three defenders, then whipping the ball back out to his left to find Josh Carter for a three-pointer.
"I'd been getting into the lane the whole second half and getting to the rim," Smith said. "So on that I penetrated and instead of taking a shot I would've taken in college my whole sophomore or junior year I just decided to find the open man and trust him to make the shot."
Smith was taken with the 47th overall pick in the second round of the NBA Draft. He's expected to sign as the team's back-up point guard.
"One thing Russ will be -- he'll be fun to watch," Pelicans assistant coach Bryan Gates told the team's web site after Smith's second practice with the team.
U of L coach Rick Pitino said of Smith on Wednesday: "I couldn't be anymore pleased for this young man right now. It only takes at the NBA level one team to believe in you. We were always convinced that Russ Smith would be an outstanding pro because he can do so many different things."