ND's Pat Connaughton makes NBA debut look A-OK


Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

Former Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton continues to make the transition to professional basketball look relatively seamless.

A second-round NBA draft pick last month, Connaughton started two games for the Portland Trail Blazers over the weekend at the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas. Working from the small forward spot even though he was classified as a shooting guard coming out of college, Connaughton averaged 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 26.5 minutes per game. He shot 41.2 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 and 33.3 percent (1-of-3) from the foul line.

“It was phenomenal,” Connaughton told about his first taste of the NBA. “I was eager to get on the floor.”

During Sunday’s 93-80 victory over Dallas, Connaughton had 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal in 24 minutes.

Fellow NBA rookie Jerian Grant received his first taste of pro basketball Saturday for the New York Knicks. A first-round draft pick of the Washington Wizards before being twice being traded (Atlanta, New York) last month, Grant scored 12 points with five rebounds, three assists and two steals in 24 minutes during a 78-73 victory over San Antonio. Grant shot 1-of-6 from the floor, 1-of 3 from 3 and 9-of-10 from the free throw line.

“Just a little bit of nerves,” Grant told MSG Network afterward. “Once you get out there, it’s just playing basketball.”

Two other former Irish also are competing in Las Vegas. Power forward Jack Cooley scored eight points with eight rebounds in 18 minutes for Utah in its first game in Las Vegas. Power forward Luke Harangody is averaging 4.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 block in 11.5 minutes in two games with Phoenix.

Only Grant is back in action Monday when New York faces the Los Angeles Lakers and No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell at 8:30 p.m. South Bend time.

Connaughton and the Trail Blazers play Tuesday at 3 p.m. South Bend time against San Antonio while Cooley and the Jazz face Harangody and the Suns at 7:30.

Former Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton started at small forward and played significant minutes for the Portland Trail Blazers during two NBA summer-league games over the weekend in Las Vegas.SBT File Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ