Portland Trail Blazers guard Nolan Smith exited the court on a stretcher with his head and neck immobilized on Tuesday night after being fouled during a drive to the basket in the closing minute of a Las Vegas Summer League game against the Houston Rockets.
The second-year guard out of Duke suffered a concussion on the play but was released from a Las Vegas-area hospital late Tuesday night "after CT scan results came back normal and he had full range of motion," according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. You can see the play in question above, thanks to our friends at the Yahoo! Sports Minute.
With less than 60 seconds remaining and the Rockets holding an 11-point lead, Smith took an outlet pass and streaked toward the Houston basket. As he elevated to attempt a quick shot, Rockets guard Zoran Dragic rose to contest the layup. It's difficult to see, even on repeated replays, but Dragic's left elbow appeared to connect with the right side of Smith's head as the two leapt. (Multiple on-scene reports, including those filed by Blazers beat writer Freeman and Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, suggest the elbow was likely inadvertent, which seems clear in the replay.)
As Smith descended to the court, he stumbled into the basket stanchion under the hoop. Smith then staggered to the right, took three steps and collapsed to the ground, prompting a stoppage in play and a rush to the court by Portland team medical personnel. From Freeman:
A team spokesperson said Smith never lost consciousness and he was able to move his arms and legs and talk to doctors, although he was in noticeable pain as he lay on the court. [...]
Smith's eyes were constantly twitching as doctors tended to him and it was clear the arena's bright lights were an irritant. After medical personnel stabilized Smith's neck for precautionary reasons, Matthews and team trainer Jay Jensen raised him onto the stretcher as coaches, members of the Blazers' front office and teammates watched nearby.
The incident came just five days after Philadelphia 76ers guard Xavier Silas suffered a concussion on the final day of the Orlando Pro Summer League, also due to an inadvertent elbow.
Smith's injury led Summer League officials to end the game with 42.9 seconds remaining on the clock, awarding Houston a 99-88 win in the slightly shortened affair. The scary moment provided an unfortunate ending to what had been a stellar game for Smith, who had scored 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting and added five rebounds, five assists and two steals in just under 38 minutes of floor time.
Smith was released from the hospital just after midnight on the East Coast, with the Blazers public relations staff announcing via Twitter that all of his tests came back normal and that he's considered doubtful for the remainder of the Summer League schedule. Smith's former Duke Blue Devils teammate Lance Thomas, playing in Vegas with the New Orleans Hornets' summer squad after participating in Team USA scrimmages as a member of the 2012 Select Team, tweeted Wednesday morning that Smith is "okay" this morning, and asked for fans' best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Smith, who will turn 24 next Wednesday, had a largely uneventful rookie season in Portland, making 44 appearances for the Blazers and averaging 3.8 points, 1.4 assists and 1.3 rebounds in 12.3 minutes per game. Given more burn in the last days of a dead-end season in Oregon, though, Smith showed flashes, averaging 12.8 points and 4.6 assists in 35.4 nightly minutes over the Blazers' final five games.
With former starter Raymond Felton shipped east to the New York Knicks, Smith was expected to compete with rookie Damian Lillard for increased minutes at Portland's point. How much this injury impedes his progress remains to be seen.
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