Blazers Introduce Rookies Nolan Smith & Jon Diebler -- Notes & Quotes

A whole lot to unpack from today's introduction of the newest Portland Trail Blazers. In case you missed it earlier, here's a link to a few pictures and here's a link to a piece on Raymond Felton. Next up: a look at Portland's two new rookies: Nolan Smith from Duke University and Jon Diebler from The Ohio State University.    

Nolan Smith

Every person who has ever met Nolan Smith has said he's a high character person. All of that is accurate. It's like he was created in a "culture" petri dish somewhere in Kevin Pritchard Laboratory. Smith physically turned his body while taking questions so that his shoulders would be square with the person asking the questions and made direct eye contact as he answered each question in full. And it still didn't feel forced.

Knowing that he wasn't in Newark for the NBA Draft on Thursday, I asked him to take me through his draft day. He provided this hour by hour account.

Didn't sleep much that night. 

First thing,  I woke up and got a haircut about 8 o'clock.

Went and picked up one of my friends at the airport and from there I went straight to the gym.

I was at the gym from probably 2 o'clock to about 5 o'clock or 5:30.

A lot of that time was spent sitting down, talking to my trainer about how hard I worked for this moment.

About two hours was also spent on the court, getting a really good workout in. A lot of it was nerves, just to calm me down.

Went back to my house, got dressed. My mom, my sister and my stepfather, we all went to a private location outside my house to watch it.

At my house, Kevin Durant and a lot of family were over there watching it, waiting for my name to be called.

Excuse me, Nolan, but you left out what type of dressing you had on the salad you ate for lunch.

Durant, Smith said, is a childhood friend and was ecstatic that Smith was selected in the first round. "He was just happy for me. Me and him grew up together. Played against each other when we were eight years old. Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, all those guys came around just to be there for me in my moment. Just absolutely happy for me."

Yes, Smith said with a smile, he is aware of Durant's relationship with the Blazers.

Smith also noted that he got a text from the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Kyrie Irving, his teammate at Duke.

"I got a text from Kyrie saying, 'We made it.' I've known Kyrie for a year but we became very close."

Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan clearly could not care less if analysts say the Blazers reached to draft Smith. He was beaming while talking about Smith, who he envisions as a stabilizing force in Portland's backcourt.

"We feel [Nolan is] one of the classiest kids in the draft. Obviously a very tremendous talent as well. [He] has won at every level. Won 40 games at Oak Hill Academy. Won a national championship at Duke. One of the top players in the country this year. Another guy who showed improvement every year -- which we're big on. We like to see guys who get better every year, shows us they are willing to work on their game. Nolan, being a first class kid, he fits our culture as well. Nolan has his family out here with him."

Smith buttons the top button of his polo shirt, which is always a plus.

Smith's Foundation

Smith recently launched a foundation with his sister: the Sydney And Nolan Smith Foundation. The foundation was started, Smith said today, to help children who have lost parents during childhood. Smith's father, Derek, was a former NBA player and assistant coach who died when Nolan was 8 years old.

"We decided on our foundation because it's something that we can relate to," Smith said. "We want to relate to kids who are a lot like us. We lost our father. We had a strong support group to help us carry through, help us become successful. Both of us are college grads now. We want to do that for kids who when they lose a person, instead of going in shelter and hiding from their pain, we can be there for them to help them get through it. 

Helping kids be kids."

Here's a link to the foundation's website.

Whether Smith Is A One Or A Two

Smith knows that he has been labelled a combo guard and had an answer ready when asked if he was a one or a two. "I look at myself as a player. If you give me the ball I'll be able to run a team. If you want me to go out there and score I can do that as well."

He pencils in as Felton's back-up but surely 2010 draft pick Armon Johnson will give him a fight as well.

Why Smith and not Kenneth Faried

There was a reasonably-sized and reasonable outcry when the Blazers decided to pass on rebounding specialist Kenneth Faried, a forward out of Morehead State, to select Smith with the No. 21 pick in Thursday's draft. Faried went No. 22 to the Denver Nuggets.

Here's Buchanan's response when asked why Smith instead of Faried.

"We were big fans of Kenneth. Have been for a couple of years. We felt like we needed a long-term answer at point guard and we needed to address some depth in our frontcourt. If we can address both needs during the draft that's great. We tried to do that. The price tag to do both is not where we wanted to go. We wanted to keep our core players together. Let's address the backcourt now and address the frontcourt in free agency. When we looked at who was available in free agency, we felt much better about the candidates in the frontcourt rather than the backcourt."

The Blazers are officially over the cap but Blazers management expects to have a mid-level exception, or something like it, whenever the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized. Indications are that Owner Paul Allen is OK with making further financial commitments.

Jon Diebler

Portland's second round pick, Jon Diebler out of Ohio State, is a shooting specialist who happens to look exactly like Ryan Parker, one of Portland's many statistical consultants and the owner of BasketballGeek.com. It's generally considered a bad idea to take a player who looks like one of your quants but apparently the Blazers made an exception here due to Diebler's legendary shooting skillz.

Diebler and Parker are both unlikely to see court time for the Blazers during the 2011-2012 season.

"Being a second round pick, you obviously have some flexibility," Buchanan said. "Whether you bring him over immediately or if you want to have him play overseas for a season. We'll sit down with his agent and talk about some options for Jon. But he's obviously got an NBA skill. Finding the right time to have him on our roster is something that we have to discuss."

The Blazers have Felton, Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews, Elliot Williams, Armon Johnson, Nolan Smith and possibly Patty Mills ahead of Diebler on the backcourt depth chart. In other words, hasta luego.

Buchanan did have some nice compliments for Diebler before officially saying "adios."

"He is one of the better catch-and-shoot guys in this draft. Had a tremendous season and a tremendous career at Ohio State. High character guy, fits our organization, fits what we're about, comes from a basketball pedigree. His dad was his coach in high school. All-time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history. One of the best shooters we felt in this draft. Very happy to get him where we selected him.  Jon is ... recently married and he has his wife Kate with him so it's an exciting time for him."

At some point, the Blazers envision Diebler filling the spot-up shooting role previously inhabited by guard Rudy Fernandez, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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