The Rockets‘ Jabari Smith and the Magic’s Paolo Banchero had their first regular season matchup Monday since Orlando’s last-minute decision to bypass Smith and make Banchero the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Banchero has gotten off to a sizzling start and is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year, while Smith is still adjusting to the NBA.
“He just needs to feel comfortable on the floor so we’re figuring that out as we go along,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “Having him on the elbow not just as a scorer but as a passer, we’re going to explore that. He has shown the ability to shoot the pull-up in transition as well as give it up and trail in transition. His 3-point shooting really sets up the rest of his game. People are hugged up to him and they close out to him. So, he can get to his drives or his pull-ups or whatever off that.”
Smith, who is shooting just 30.3% from the field and 30% from three-point range, said he hasn’t been discouraged by the slow start. He admits the transition from college is difficult, but he’s focused on learning to play at the NBA level.
“I feel like it’s just confidence, just trusting my work, being aggressive, being real precise with what I’m doing, not hesitating, and just playing my game,” Smith said. “I feel like it’s going to come. I’m not worried at all.”
There’s more from the Southwest Division:
- Bruno Fernando, who was the Rockets‘ starting center for the first two games of the season, is working to return from left patellar tendinosis, Feigen adds in a separate story. The team estimates he may need two more weeks to get medically cleared. “Bruno is … moving around pretty well but he has to see the doctor when we get back (from the road trip),” Silas said. “We’re making sure that he’s OK to continue ramping up. He’s ramping up. Hopefully, he’ll be back sooner than later. Conditioning definitely is a part of it.” Silas couldn’t offer a timetable for Jae’Sean Tate, who has been limited to three games because of a sore ankle.
- The injury to Zach Collins will create an opportunity for Charles Bassey, who signed a two-way deal with the Spurs last month, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Coach Gregg Popovich has been impressed with what he’s seen from Bassey so far. “He kind of looks the part, doesn’t look like a deer in the headlights or anything like that,” Popovich said (Twitter link). “He is out there playing. He is aggressive, a good defender, moved the ball well.”
- Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. recently played five-on-five for the first time since offseason foot surgery, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “It’s kind of baby steps right now,” coach Taylor Jenkins said.