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Pat Connaughton on His Early NBA Struggles, Passing Up Baseball

Connaughton talked with Alan Siegel of The Ringer about his early years in the NBA and the tension between his basketball and baseball career.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Pat Connaughton came to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2015 NBA Draft after passing on a chance to pursue his baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles, who drafted him in the 2014 MLB Draft. Connaughton talked with Alan Siegel of The Ringer about his early days in the NBA with the Blazers:

For the Notre Dame graduate, it was a strange transition. The towering right-hander was built to intimidate on the pitcher’s mound. “The person that was at the plate was at a disadvantage, not me,” said Connaughton, who averaged only 4.2 minutes and then 8.1 minutes per game in his first and second years in the NBA. “And you kind of have to take that same mentality into the NBA.” In the NBA, his size and strength weren’t superpowers. That took some getting used to.

Connaughton then details the tension between his young NBA career and the possibility of baseball that was still there:

While working to improve his game, he squeezed in throwing whenever possible. In May 2016, he even stopped by Orioles extended spring training in Florida. Connaughton said that he had to explain to the Blazers, who saw reports of the appearance, that it was merely a visit not an official workout.

“There were times when people were like, ‘You’re in the NBA, you’re doing a disservice to your team if you were still doing baseball workouts,’” Connaughton said. “To a degree, yeah, you’re probably right. If I was out there trying to pitch seven innings a day, yeah I’d be doing a disservice to my basketball team.”

Although the Blazers didn’t bring Connaughton back last summer, he has found a role with the Finals hopeful Milwaukee Bucks. Former Portland teammate Ed Davis hopes Connaughton takes the mound at some point down the line:

Still, Connaughton thinks often about the other path he could’ve taken. The Orioles hold his rights until 2020. Now a member of the Nets, his friend Ed Davis still nudges him about playing baseball again. “He’s gotta do that for me, man,” Davis said. “I want to be able to take my kids to the games.”

You can read more about Connaughton’s dual career paths here.