Nolan, Sydney Smith share sibling bond

Brother, sister share apartment, look after each other and run foundation

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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LeBron James doesn’t scare Wesley Matthews. Neither does Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant.

But if Matthews sees Nolan Smith’s sister Sydney behind the wheel of a Chevy Tahoe, he is likely to turn catatonic.

Earlier in the year, Matthews was pulling out of a McDonald’s when Sydney nearly ran into him head on.

He was on the right side of the parking lot. She was on the left. And yet, she started yelling at him.

“Her driving skills are suspect,” Nolan said. “If she’s driving, I usually just try to sleep or look at my phone so I can’t see what she’s doing.”

Nolan and Sydney, you see, have just one car between them. And since Sydney moved in with Nolan last fall, they have just one apartment between them, too.

Most players are shocked when they hear that a rookie who just signed a multi-million dollar contract is shackin’ up with big sis. But aside from potentially skyrocketing his insurance premiums, Sydney is basically the alley to Nolan’s oop.

Born less than three years apart, the pair has always been double-knot tight. But when their father, Derek, died of an undetected heart condition at 34, their bond was permanently cemented.

Sydney transferred high schools her senior year so that she could be with Nolan as a freshman. And in Nolan’s four years at Duke, Sydney never missed a home game.

So once the NBA lockout ended, and Nolan made his way to the Northwest, Sydney joined him on the 3,000-mile move from Maryland.

Don’t worry. She didn’t drive.

“He’s the best brother. He’s not your typical NBA player,” said Sydney, 26. “He does a lot of thoughtful things for me like bringing me a Jamba Juice after practice. He’s always thinking of me.”

As he should be.

Nolan has never been accused of being a dirty player, but that doesn't mean he's not a messy one.

Besides constantly waking him up to make sure he is on time for practice, Sydney also spends a good portion of her day picking up Nolan’s trash. She adds that it's futile trying to figure out which of his garments are actually clean, so she just throws them all in the wash together.

“He’s lived by himself before,” Sydney said. “There were ants everywhere.”

photoSydney Smith

By day, Sydney runs the Sydney & Nolan Smith Foundation — an organization dedicated to supporting youths who have lost a loved one. Last month, the siblings joined forces with the American Heart Association and gave a talk at Felida Elementary School in Vancouver, where the focus was to raise awareness about heart disease.

By night, she helps scout new dining locations or talks hoops with little bro.

No, she didn’t play herself — she was a high school tennis star who burned out on the sport before attending Louisville. But she has seen enough games, and knows Nolan well enough, that she can do more than just comfort him after an undesirable performance.

“Our conversations are honest. He knows that with me, he’s not going to get someone who tells him what he wants to hear,” Sydney said. “Sometimes, if he needs rest, I’m going to make sure he gets off Skype and goes to sleep. He’s told me before that I act like a coach with him.”

And sometimes, Nolan acts like a dad with her.

To this point, Nolan has given nothing but rave reviews regarding his living arrangement, and believes he and Sydney will remain problem-free “as long as she doesn’t bring any men over.”

Proooobably not going to happen.

Nolan said that if a beau ever comes into Sydney’s life, he and Matthews are going to have a serious discussion with him. Matthews, however, said there would be no discussion — “I would just tell him to get out.”

Sydney added that Nolan and other teammates told her that if she ever wanted to start dating, she would have to move out of the apartment and get her own place.

“Do you laugh or roll your eyes when you hear that?” Sydney is asked.

“I roll my eyes because I know that Nolan is dead serious,” she said.

And they say the Blazers can’t play defense.

Matt Calkins is the Trail Blazers beat writer for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blazerbanter