Pelicans' Russ Smith named to all-summer league second team

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

LAS VEGAS – With training camp opening in late September, New Orleans Pelicans rookie Russ Smith knows the upcoming months will be critical to setting himself up to be successful in the fall.

“I’m just trying to get better and trying to work hard, to get ready for next (season),” the point guard said. “Hopefully (the Pelicans) can keep me. I just want to leave a good impression on them.”

Smith’s first impression as a professional couldn’t have gone much better.

After leading the entire NBA Summer League in assists average (6.4) and ranking 20th in scoring (16.0 points per game), Smith was voted to the all-league second team. Of the 10 players chosen for either the first or second team, only four players are rookies (Smith, Chicago’s Doug McDermott, Philadelphia’s Jordan McRae and Phoenix’s T.J. Warren). The other six players are entering their second NBA seasons, including a few who played significant minutes in the 2013-14 regular season, such as Chicago’s Tony Snell and New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr.

In addition to his scoring and distributing numbers, both of which led the Pelicans, Smith averaged 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals. He shot 43.4 percent from the field, highlighted by 21- and 20-point games.

Smith officially signed a contract with New Orleans on July 15, but said that’s only the first step on a process that will continue through the rest of the summer and into the fall. One specific area for improvement is to reduce his turnovers, after he averaged 4.2 in Las Vegas.

“My plan is to get better. I signed, but my journey still is not over,” Smith said. “I’ve obviously got things to work on in my game. I feel like I got a lot better since the first game of summer league. I’ll make the improvements I need.”