When the Houston Rockets announced that Jabari Smith Jr. was going to be on the Summer League roster, many Rockets fans' eyes and ears perked up. Questions began to surface regarding why Smith , the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, was playing.
Is this a sign that Rockets newly-hired coach Ime Udoka isn't sold on Smith? Could this mean Smith could possibly be on the move, due to a fairly inconsistent 2022-23 rookie campaign? Did the Rockets make him play in the Summer League?
Some of the questions were understandable, as the Summer League is essentially in place for incoming rookies who were recently drafted and haven't had a chance to wear their new threads on the court. Furthermore, we don't usually see a player in Smith's situation (top-three pick from the previous season) play in the Summer League after their rookie season barring injury.
Following Friday night's game, in which Smith dropped 33 points and hit the game-winner on a buzzer-beater, he chose to explain exactly why he decided to suit up for the Rockets' Summer League roster.
"I'm 20-years-old. Why wouldn't I play in the Summer League? We were 22-60 last year, I don't feel like I'm in a position to just sit out.
My rookie year wasn't perfect, it wasn't great. So why not get out here and get reps and play with refs and play with my new teammates and my new coaches and just get a feel? I feel like any second-year guy should feel open to play, just because of the opportunity.
You get to play in front of the refs, you get to play in front of a crowd, you get to play a real basketball game against NBA players. You usually don't get that in the summer, so just take advantage of it."
First off, wow!
Rockets second-year forward flashes humility, character
Jabari just wrapped up a rookie season in which he became the first rookie in NBA history to score 1000 points, grab 500 rebounds, make 100 triples, and block over 70 shots, while also becoming the youngest player in league history to pull off the same feat. And he's still not impressed.
In the Rockets' final 20 games, Smith Jr. averaged 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks, shooting 47.2 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from long-range, and 78.3 percent from the charity stripe. And he still said it wasn't good enough.
He had every reason to pass on the Summer League. In fact, most players in his shoes probably would have, using the lack of competition in Vegas as an excuse (which would have been a viable excuse, might I add).
Aside from incoming rookies, Summer League rosters are filled with players hoping to land a training camp invite, as they've found themselves out of the league, irrespective of their draft position. This is obviously not the case for Jabari, but he still opted to lace his sneakers up and take the court.
Smith's attitude reflects a player who isn't entitled and wants to continue to get better, which will take him a long way, not only in his NBA career, but throughout life.
Keep going, young fella.