Houston Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. was at one time expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft last month.
And after surprisingly dropping to No. 3 overall to the Rockets on draft night, Smith now enters the NBA with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and is anxious to prove himself on the highest stage.
For now, Smith will have to settle for NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where he, as well as the rest of his fellow rookies, are getting set to take the floor for their first pro-level competition.
“I’m looking forward to playing everybody,” Smith told the media. “It doesn’t matter what team. I’m just excited to play with my new team and new organization and just get back out there competing. I mean, that’s what it’s all about. I want to feel like I played hard all week.”
Speaking of that chip, Smith's first two games on the Summer League stage will come against the two players who were drafted above him -- Orlando's Paolo Banchero, and Oklahoma City's Chet Holmgren.
Still, Smith's first priority in Las Vegas will be to learn, and improve his game; even if it would be fun for him to get some early payback.
"No matter how long I am there, no matter if I am making shots or missing shots," Smith said. "I want to know that I was out there competing, out there listening, and out there learning. At the end of the day, all of this is new to me, so I am not going to put too much pressure on myself going out here (Las Vegas). But I am going with a chip on my shoulder, and trying to win."
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