Portland Trail Blazers sophomore guard Nolan Smith was interviewed on Blazers Courtside by Mike Barrett, Mike Rice and Brian Wheeler. Video of the interview will be available on TrailBlazers.TV.
For the second week in a row, Rice (accidentally?) coined an ingenious nickname. Last week, it was "Leonard Meyers" for Meyers Leonard. This week, it was "Lillian" for Damian Lillard.
Anyway, here's a transcript.
Getting back early, better than lockout year, right?
It's been a great experience. I'm just happy to be going through a real training camp this year. Our chemistry feels so special right now. We're a young team, we needed to get back [early]. We've been working out, playing pickup, really getting after each other. Like I said, our relationships and our chemistry heading into training camp is where it needs to be and we're all ready to work.
How much have you improved from last year at this time?
I've improved so much. I take pride in [using] my summer times to get better. A lot of guys take time off, go on vacations, after last year, as soon as the season ended, I was disappointed with how it went for myself personally, and for the team. Personally, I got right back in the gym, I was ready to work. I'm playing great basketball and I'm ready to help the Blazers win by any means necessary.
New coaching staff
They've been great, they've been great. A lot of fun to be around. They've been eager to work just as much as we have. They know what they want, everything they've been working on, getting shots in our offense, things we're going to do during the season, they're giving it to us in a way that excites all of us. We're all ready to listen and do what they're telling us to do to win some games.
Gaining confidence thanks to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
Mentally, I feel great. I feel aggressive when I get between those lines. Off the court, I'm still the same Nolan. Coach K, he didn't tell me to change anything about who I am. But when I walk between those lines, I know I'm good, I know I can help the Blazers, help [LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews] and those guys, everybody else who is going to be on the court. That's the main thing. I'm playing like it, I'm being aggressive, I'm being who I am as a player: I'm scoring the ball, I'm making plays, I can pass. As long as I keep that mentality every single game and practice, it's going to be a great year for me personally and honestly, once I do that, it's going to be a great season for the Blazers.
Concussion during Summer League
I feel great, no more headaches. Concussions aren't fun. This was my second one. I feel great, I got cleared probably about a month ago now. I've been back and forth, doing things, playing, full contact. Those first two games at the Summer League did a lot for me. They did a lot for me mentally and it was kind of good. I did what I needed to do in those two games to give myself the confidence heading into this season. I wish I had played more, alongside Damian [Lillard], show the Blazers some more fun like we did in that Houston game. Those two games gave me the confidence and they showed me what I needed to do heading into the season.
Are you more comfortable as a two guard or as a point guard?
I actually feel comfortable at both right now. I've been playing the one in pickup games against [Lillard], coming off screens, making plays for myself and for my teammates. At the same time, I know when I get on that wing alongside of him that's when I'm even freer, I get to run the court and think about putting that ball through the hole. Wherever [the coaches] feel like I can help the team best is where I'm going to feel comfortable.
Memory issues because of concussion?
I had a pretty good feel for what had happened. Bits and pieces weren't there. I didn't remember getting stretchered off the court until I saw the video of it. Then I finally snapped back, once I got into the ambulance. I definitely wish I didn't have to scare everybody, get everyone there to get stretchered off the court. I wish I could have walked off, but I definitely didn't remember that part.
Which Blazer helped himself the most this summer and which Blazer will be a surprise during the season?
I think Wesley Matthews honestly had a great summer. He summered over in Milwaukee, you can tell, he's in great shape and he's looking athletic, he's shooting the ball tremendously great. He's definitely stood out the most. We've just got to get back and keep it going.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter