Blazers Notebook: Smith visits Felida Elementary School




More than 15 years after his father died from an undetected heart condition, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Nolan Smith is doing his part to prevent others from suffering the same loss.

Joining his older sister, Sydney, and teaming up with the American Heart Association, Smith appeared at Felida Elementary School in Vancouver to discuss heart disease and share his story.

“We want people to be aware. Anything can happen,” Smith said. “We want them to be aware that your heart can go at any time. It can happen all of a sudden.”

Smith’s father, Derek, won a national championship with Louisville in 1980 and played nine seasons in the NBA. He died on a cruise ship in 1996 with both Nolan and Sydney on board. Nolan said that ever since he was a freshman at Duke, he wanted to do something to give back and prevent future tragedies.

The result was the Syndey and Nolan Smith Foundation, which was founded to support youths who have lost a loved one.

After Nolan spoke, he participated in a shootaround in which 20 students were randomly selected to join him. Among those watching was Felida principal Kris Janati. Janati, a longtime Duke fan, admitted that she had a Nolan Smith poster in her office and has been a fan for quite some time.

“I like him even more now,” Janati said.

Blazers acquire Hickson, waive Okur

Portland acquired yet another new face Tuesday.

The Blazers claimed forward J.J. Hickson off waivers after the Kings released him Monday.

The 23-year-old averaged 4.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game for the Kings this season, and averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds during his four-year stint with Cleveland. His contract expires at the end of the season.

“We like J.J.’s energy and physicality,” said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. “He’s a young, but experienced player who can help our frontline.”

In order to make room on the roster, Portland waived center Mehmet Okur, whom the Blazers attained in a trade with the Nets last week. A back injury has sidelined Okur since January 25 and he was not expected to play this year.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or