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#pounditTuesday, May 28, 2024

Jabari Smith Jr. explains surprising decision to play in Summer League

Jabari Smith Jr in his Rockets uniform

Feb 3, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) reacts during the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Jabari Smith Jr. was the No. 3 pick in last year’s NBA Draft and started 79 games as a rookie with the Houston Rockets, but he is still taking the somewhat unconventional decision to play in the NBA Summer League this month. He has a good reason for doing it, too.

Smith had a great explanation for his Summer League decision on Saturday. The Rockets forward cited the team’s lack of success and his relative youth as big reasons to get more reps.

“I’m 20 years old. Why wouldn’t I play?” Smith said. “We were 22-60 last year. My rookie year wasn’t perfect, so why not get out here and get reps, play with my new teammates and coaches?”

The Rockets probably like hearing this. Most rookies understandably take the summer off after their first NBA season, especially those like Smith, who had a perfectly solid first season. The drive to get better is admirable, and may pay long-term dividends.

Don’t take this as a sign that Smith is lacking in confidence, either.

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