In a preseason game against the Sacramento Kings, Dennis Smith Jr. made his presence known to Portland Trail Blazers fans. Competing for one of the final roster spots available, Smith managed an 18 point, seven assist showing against the Kings. According to Jason Quick of the Athletic, none of the other players hunting for that spot have stood out the way that Smith does. Coach Chauncey Billups had this to say about Smith after the game.
“There have been some behind-closed-doors practices and games where some of the other guys have stood out or played well, too,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “But, you know, you can’t hide what you saw today. I mean, (Smith) was really good.”
Quick points out that Smith played as if he had already made the roster, and Billups noticed.
“You can’t come in and try to force it and overdo it, like this is my chance,” Billups said. “Just play the way you play. He’s been having a great camp. He really has.”
For Smith, he is moving past what circumstance has dealt him as a former lottery pick and facing his future with the possibility of a roster spot in Portland.
“The things that happened, they are not excuses, it just is what it is,” Smith said. “Some things I can’t control, some I can. Regardless of how it goes, I have to take responsibility for everything, and whenever my time is ready, I have to walk through that door.”
“It’s a journey. Any time you try to get somewhere nice, you have to go through the hard things,” Smith said. “You know, that’s fine with me. I’m embracing it. There’s no ego. I’m all about the work. I’m thankful to be here.”
He is embracing the capacity for change.
“I realized I had to change because I’m in a position now that is different than where I have ever been in my life,” Smith said. “I have to grow. I have to change to grow. And I’m all for that.”
For Smith, it is helpful that he already had a relationship with Billups.
“As soon as I found out I was coming here, the first thing I did was call Chauncey,” Smith said. “And he told me immediately on the phone: I’m gonna coach you.”
As for Billups, he recognizes where Smith is at on his NBA journey.
“He’s in a position he’s never been in before,” Billups said. “He was a high pick, a really talented player — still is — and he is fighting to stay in the NBA. There’s a different mentality that comes with that, a different urgency that comes with that.”
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