LAS VEGAS – Pat Connaughton looked on the bright side Saturday after he went scoreless in the Trail Blazers’ opener at the Las Vegas Summer League.
“The good news is I can’t score any less points in the next game,’’ Connaughton said after missing all five of his shots.
Connaughton, whose Summer League performance will go a long way to determining whether the Blazers give him a guaranteed contract, left Cox Pavillion with mixed feelings.
“I’ve always been one with a winners-win mentality: If we get the win, I’m going to leave the arena happier than I came in,’’ Connaughton said. “Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be … I don’t want to say frustrated because that’s not the right word … but I’m going to be conscious of the fact that I want to play better.’’
If there was a bright spot to Connaughton’s play, it was his game-high six assists, which underscores a facet of what Connaughton has been trumpeting heading into Summer League: He is more than just a shooter.
“Obviously the shot was not falling and I’m not happy about it, but there are more things to the game of basketball,’’ Connaughton said. “The second half was a better judgment of playing the whole game. When I came into the league, I was known strictly as a shooter - now, I’d like to keep that going -- but to be able to handle the ball, make the passes, and at the end of the day we got the win and that’s what matters.’’
Summer League coach Jim Moran said Connaughton is the type of player whose stat line doesn’t always tell the story.
“From his standpoint, I didn’t even look at stat line; I was happy with the way he played,’’ Moran said. “Pat plays the right way, and that’s how we play.’’
Still, Connaughton knows that at his position he has to make shots, and Saturday’s performance notwithstanding, he feels like he has proven he is up to the task. Last season in 39 games he shot 37-of-72 from the field (51.4 percent) and 17-of-33 from three-point range (51.5 percent).
“Look, I’ve made shots throughout my career. Shots will fall. I’ve scored the ball throughout my entire life,’’ he said. “But this game is becoming a shooters game. So you absolutely have to make shots to play in the NBA.
“I don’t know that you have to make every shot you take in Summer League to make sure you are on a roster. I think it’s more important to play the right way and take the shots that come to you. Because at the end of the day a Summer League game is different than an NBA game. They are played at different pace and different frantic things go on. It’s just a matter of taking it in stride and building on it.’’
The Blazers have until July 25 to decide whether to keep Connaughton as the 15th man by guaranteeing his $1.4 million contract, and Connaughton has repeatedly said that he doesn’t feel pressure to impress.
That confidence is borne out of hard work and preparation, and the security of knowing a professional baseball career is also an option. He was selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2014 Major League Draft as a pitcher.
“You have to look at the position I’m in: I try to make sure I always keep my options open, but when you want to play basketball, and want to play at highest level, you have to make sure you are confident in the work you’ve put in throughout the year,’’ he said. “I think it showed the last two games of (last) season and I think it showed in the playoffs. Now it’s a matter of making sure that you don’t get down because you had one rough shooting night. You still won and you were still able to facilitate and get other people the ball.’’
Connaughton was quick to emphasize that he is not nonchalant about his uncertain status with the Blazers and the NBA.
“You have to be smart in that you don’t want to make it look like you don’t care, because that’s not the case,’’ Connaughton said. “You just hope it’s on your terms and not someone else’s.’’
His next chance to impress will come Sunday at 5:30 when the Blazers play Boston.
“That’s the great thing about Summer Legaue,’’ Connaughton said. “You usually play the next day.’’