Last month former Louisville guard Russ Smith was drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans. Smith said he wanted to go into his summer workouts with the team prepared to prove he belongs in the league.
Smith said he wanted to prove to the Pelicans they made the right pick by drafting him, and prove to the rest of the league they made a mistake by not picking him in the first round. So far so good.
According to coach Rick Pitino, Smith will sign with the Pelicans for a multi-year guaranteed deal.
"It's not final yet, but he agreed to terms and the deal is going to be done," Pitino said. Later he added, "We were having a great summer and this was the cherry on top."
Pitino said he had a conversation with Smith after Smith's post-draft press conference came on a little too strong for Pitino's liking. He said after a quick conversation, Smith agreed that his attitude should be one of gratitude for being drafted not anger for not being drafted in the first round.
"Here's a guy who came to college not recruited by any of the other Big East schools," Pitino noted. Pitino commended Smith for his hard work and focused effort after the draft.
Pitino said roughly 30 to 40 percent of second-round picks get a deal in the NBA, and Russ being one of those means the Pelicans believe in his future with the team. Russ Smith Sr. told the Courier-Journal his son's deal was for two seasons with an option for a third.
"His base salary will be $507,000," Pitino said. "I told him that 7,000 should come back to Louisville immediately so we can go celebrate as a staff."
Pitino liked to joke about how tough it was to coach Smith and his gregarious, risk-taking personality on and off the court. But Pitino also credited Smith and his teammates for being a big part of his enjoyment of coaching the last three to four years.