LAKE CHARLES — When the Houston Rockets walked into the Legacy Center in Lake Charles for training camp, Jabari Smith Jr. had to take a moment to himself. Although he has been around the team since the conclusion of the draft, Smith's NBA dreams became a reality during his first day of camp.
"It was a great experience," Smith said. "I was able to receive that feel that this was an NBA practice. It was different from summer league practices and workouts because everyone was locked in and focused. The attention to detail was a lot higher, and everyone was playing hard."
Smith is four days away from the start of his NBA career. He will be one of four rookies suiting up for the Rockets to take part in their 2022 preseason opener against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
Houston's preseason opener against San Antonio will be an anticipated moment for Smith. But the 6-foot-11 rookie big man from Auburn University has already participated in one game circled on his calendar.
Smith had a one-on-one match on Aug. 1 to play against his dad, Jabari Smith Sr. During the Rockets' introductory press conference in June, Smith Sr. said he had lost 40 pounds and had constructed a game plan that gave him an advantage over the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year winner.
Smith Jr. said he defeated his dad 10-3.
"We played, but he said he was not playing for real," Smith jr. said. "He was playing hard, and I was playing hard. But after it was over, dad said he wasn't playing. But we all know I beat him."
Smith Jr. began beating his dad in one-on-one battles during his prominent high school career, which resulted in him receiving McDonald's All-American and Mr. Georgia Basketball honors as a senior in 2021.
But based on their respective draft selections, Smith Sr. described watching his son making the NBA as emotional and gratifying as he believes his son has already surpassed his basketball legacy.
"He has his own type of mental drive," Smith Sr. said in June. "He understands that I played. But he wants to make his own name. He is at that point where he is ready to branch off from his dad and let me be a dad — other than the guy who is always pushing him."
Smith Sr. entered the league as a second-round pick (No. 45 overall) by the Sacramento Kings in 2000. He played for the Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets before continuing his pro-basketball career playing for several different leagues.
The best game of his NBA career came in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in January of 2005. Smith Sr. scored a career-high 19 points on 53.8 percent from the field, six rebounds, six assists and a pair of steals.
When the Rockets begin the 2022-23 campaign in October, Smith Sr. and Smith Jr. will join a long list of the NBA's father-son duos. The renowned list of father-son duos are Mychal and Klay Thompson, Del and Stephen Curry, and Joe and Kobe Bryant.
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