Rockets Notes: Smith, Green, Trade Assets, Udoka

Jabari Smith spent the All-Star break figuring out how to have a strong finish to his second NBA season, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. While Smith has improved since his rookie year, especially in terms of shooting, he still believes he can take his game to new levels. He has responded to the week of introspection by averaging 20.0 points and 15.3 rebounds over his last three games.

“For sure, it was an examination, just trying to figure out how can I improve, how can I help the team win,” Smith said. “I’m a big part of the team, and I feel like my play affects winning a lot. I just tried to figure out ways I can affect the game and ways I can improve and ways I need to improve. (Self-examination) is something that’s just natural at the break. You kind of just see the first half of the season and find things to improve. Us finishing going into the break how we did (with a loss at Memphis), you kind of look in the mirror.”

The third pick in the 2022 draft, Smith earned second-team All-Rookie honors last season. However, he struggled with his three-point shot early in his career and wasn’t able to find a consistent role the Rockets’ offense.

“I feel more sure, more like I belong,” Smith said. “Last year, I was very unsure, floating around, not knowing what to do. Now I have more knowledge, and I’m more confident. I feel like it’s been not what I want it to be, but it has been better than last year. There’s definitely some bright spots to it, but definitely not where I want to be.”

There’s more from Houston:

  • There’s not much chance Jalen Green will be moved to the bench for the rest of the season, Kelly Iko of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. Coach Ime Udoka refused to discuss the possibility when Iko asked about it earlier in the year, and Iko doesn’t believe Udoka would consider the move now, even though Green has frequently been sitting out the fourth quarter in favor of rookie Amen Thompson. Iko acknowledges that Green is frustrated about his current situation, but notes that his decision-making is improving and he benefits from playing alongside the other starters.
  • Although the Rockets are counting on more internal improvement, a trade is their best path toward improving this summer, Iko adds in the same piece. They have plenty of young talent and veteran contracts to match salaries if a star becomes available, along with a Brooklyn first-round pick that appears likely to land in the top 10 in this year’s draft.
  • Udoka picked up a technical foul Tuesday at Oklahoma City and now leads all NBA coaches with 10, Feigen writes in a separate story. Udoka will receive an automatic one-game suspension if he reaches 16.
View Comments (15)