GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- If there's one draft prospect who knows the inner workings of Mike D'Antoni the best, it's Duke senior point guard Nolan Smith. Not only did his college coach Mike Krzyzewski team up with the Knicks head honcho at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but Coach K also incorporated D'An's offensive arsenal into his college teachings.
"He'd always use coach D'Antoni's name in our practices when we were trying to run our type of offense, and try to get up and down and play and score points," Smith said.
Smith, who was working out for the Knicks at their practice facility on Monday, actually spoke to Coach K a day earlier who stressed the importance of swaying the team brass with his defense. This past season, the Blue Devil not only led the ACC in scoring at 20.6 points per game, but he was also among the top 10 in steals (45, which he matched the year before). He gives a lot of credit to his sideline boss for his consistent four-year development.
"Coach K's great at preparing us," Smith said. "He obviously knows the game and he has a great relationship with a lot of NBA coaches. He knows what they're looking for and he tires to teach us those same things, so that when we come into these workouts and when we go to the NBA, we'll be ready to just be able to learn and grow as a player."
Smith said he had a "very good workout" and "shot the ball well." Even the prospect he matched up against in 3-on-3 drills, Butler junior point guard Shelvin Mack, was impressed.
"He looked real good," Mack said. "He's in good shape. He's a high competitor, very intense. He just wants to get out there and win."
Smith was especially encouraged to see his friend and Donnie Walsh's assistant, Allan Houston, observing from a distance. Smith said Houston, along with Pacers president Larry Bird and other NBA legends he's met during the pre-draft process, have helped him stay on top of his game on and off the court.
"I've gotten to speak to a lot of people who I've looked up to in this game," Smith said. "I've just learned a lot about this process. The process is long. There's a lot of traveling. We just have to stay fresh and take care of our bodies, which is something that we'll have to do at the next level."
Smith says he feels confident that he can step in next season and run the point when called upon because of his ability to score and defend. While he's not a head-turner like the more athletic point guards just ahead of him in the mock drafts (i.e. Josh Selby and Reggie Jackson), he has a high basketball IQ (did I mention he went to Duke?), and he's a solid outside shooter and finisher. He needs to work on his midrange and pull-up shooting, especially in New York considering D'Antoni's love for pick-and-rolls, as well as his change-of-pace moves to the basket to get by faster defenders.
"Everybody at the next level is lightning quick, so I'm just getting ready for the change of speed," Smith said. "Also, the physicality of the game. Everybody's a grown man, so getting ready for that is going to be a big step."
The good thing about Smith is that he knows how to improve. He entered his freshman year averaging 5.9 points and left averaging 20.6, similar to ... former Kansas point guard Kirk Hinrich, whose averages were 5.5 points and 17.3 points at different ends of his college career. But Smith is a more explosive version of the current Hawk.
Smith has had six workouts so far, wrapping up two in Miami and Chicago before coming to New York. Up next, he's visiting Washington, Los Angeles and Portland.
Smith is projected as a late first-rounder.
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