Jabari Smith Talks Offseason, Rockets’ Start, Defense

Rising young Rockets power forward Jabari Smith Jr. had an active summer. His offseason included workouts alongside three current NBA greats, he said during an extensive conversation with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda.

Smith got in some summer run next to Suns forward Kevin Durant, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard. Smith met up with Durant in Los Angeles.

“Before a pickup, (Durant) was working out and I just jumped in with him and his trainer,” Smith said. “It was pretty good. He pays a lot of attention to detail. It was good for me to see with just how hard you got to work, how consistent you got to be and how important it is to focus on the little things.”

He worked out with Tatum and Leonard separately from Durant.

“We played some one-on-one,” Smith said of Tatum and Leonard. “It was good to compete against them and learn from them. Like it was with KD, it was about observing their attention to detail. Everything that they do is the same.”

Through 10 games this season with Houston, the 6’10” big man is averaging 12.0 PPG on .467/.354/.556 shooting, along with 7.0 RPG and 1.2 APG.

Medina and Smith touched on a wide variety of topics, and their full conversation is well worth reading in full. Here are some highlights:

On what compelled him to explore yoga as part of his offseason prep:

“Recommendations from older players and people that also play in the league. It also came from players that are out of the league now that say they wish they would’ve done it earlier. I wanted to take the initiative to do it now. It’s made a big difference with my flexibility, my mobility and my overall recovery.”

On how head coach Ime Udoka and his staff has already impacted Smith and the Rockets, who are off to a fast 6-4 start:

“Just helping me learn the game and learn it fast. I take all that I can that I can learn from them. They’ve been around the game for a long time. It’s about the consistency and having a routine. They always preach routine. They tell me to trust in my work and trust in who I am and not to lose any confidence.”

On how he approaches defense against smaller star players:

“Just stop them, make it hard with them and be physical with them. Just try to go out with our principles and tendencies and make it tough on them. It’s going to be hard to shut them down with how good they are. So you just try to slow them down and make it hard for them.”

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