CHICAGO – He is a prospect and a legacy and a former Bullets ball boy and a son. Absolutely a son. That is especially true these days.
Nolan Smith is heading from Duke to the NBA, possibly as a first-round pick and definitely with his father’s memory close in ways the tattoo of Derek Smith on Nolan’s right arm does not do justice. The elder Smith was a national champion at Louisville in 1980 and a nine-year pro with the Warriors, Clippers, Kings, 76ers and Celtics. Later he was an assistant coach with the Bullets, a job he held at the time a massive heart attack took his life at age 34 in 1996.
And now Nolan is about a month away from the June 23 draft that will allow him to follow Derek into the NBA.
“Getting to that day will be an emotional day,” Nolan said at the pre-draft camp here. “It will feel like I did something that I started because of him.”
Finishing his Duke career advanced the feelings. Being here and going through drills in front of a crowd of executives and scouts, some of whom knew his father, brought the emotions even closer. Now, he will travel the country as the final step before the draft, and the thoughts will likely grow more prominent still.
His will be no ordinary draft night. Smith would have been one of the interesting names to track anyway – a name player from a name program, with his stock rising after a senior season largely spent moving from shooting guard to the point to replace an injured Kyrie Irving. The personal impact of the instant, though, will make it extraordinary.
“It’s going to be an incredible moment to spend with my family,” Nolan said. “Just to feel like I’ve reached the ultimate level and to definitely reflect back on everything that I’ve been through. My dad isn’t here to witness it. But I know that he’s looking down on me and it’s going to be a great moment.”
Other news, notes and observations as the basketball portion of the pre-draft camp ended Friday:
*Travis Leslie, on the bubble to make the first round, significantly boosted his chances for guaranteed money by showing a consistent perimeter game that had eluded him at Georgia.
“He shot the ball much better than I remember,” said one executive who scouted Leslie in college. “He’s a freaky athlete. He probably should have stayed in school, but he helped himself here.”
*Kenneth Faried took the biggest hit when measurements from physicals were released Friday. Though he is one of the best rebounders on the board, and impressed teams with his attitude and aggressive style of play — including one particularly impressive skying block in a two-on-one drill early in the day — the Morehead State product just officially became someone trying to make the NBA as a power forward at 6-feet-6 without shoes and 6-7 ½ with shoes.
It was no surprise –- Faried said the day before he was 6-6 in bare feet. But it gave executives pause anyway, especially considering he was listed at 6-8 in college.
“Normally, (rebounding) translates at the next level,” one front-office veteran said. “At 6-6, it might not.”
Said another: “He definitely showed us some things. Six-seven, though. Where do you play him?”
*The Raptors and coach Jay Triano are expected to meet next week with the deadline for the team option on his contract a little less than a month away. “We’ll come to a conclusion long before mid-June,” said Bryan Colangelo, the president and general manager.
*Irving tied for the fifth-highest body-fat percentage among the 54 prospects tested, and also made the rare move of skipping the basketball portion of skills test. Teams appear unfazed, though, that the consensus No. 1 pick could still be bothered, or hiding, continued problems with the toe injury that cost him all but 11 games of the Duke season. Asked Thursday if he still had health issues, Irving said, “None at all.”
*Kemba Walker, the Connecticut point guard facing concerns about his lack of size, measured 5-11 ½ without shoes and 6-1 with shoes. Not ideal size, but not major-problem size either.