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Rafael Stone wants Rockets focused on process over ‘shot luck’

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Top rookie Jabari Smith Jr. hasn’t shot well early in summer league, shooting 31.0% through two games in Las Vegas. But he’s clearly made an impact for the Houston Rockets with defense, rebounding, and floor spacing, and that played a key role in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma City.

As general manager Rafael Stone sees things, that’s perfectly fine. After all, Smith has a long track record of shooting success, and his efficiency numbers on jump shots should come around as the sample size grows.

But it’s also a useful case study in keeping focused on the bigger picture. In a mid-game interview with ESPN on Saturday, Stone explained:

Playing well is not about making shots. One of the keys to success in the NBA is making people understand that.

This is a great opportunity to tell him, ‘I thought you played great.’ I think today, he’s played very well, and I could care less if the ball goes in. The whole key is to take the same shot, every game. It needs to be the shot you practice, a shot you can make, and then you live with the results of shot luck. Whether you played well or not depends on everything else you do — how you defend, how you rebound, how you pass, and all those things. To me, he’s had a good game.

“I’m actually really happy with him,” Stone said of Smith’s showing on Saturday night versus the Thunder. “I think he’s been super impactful defensively. The one thing we are not concerned about with Jabari is shooting the ball. I actually really like the way he’s played today.”

Given the youth of Houston’s 2022 summer league roster and its probable group for the 2022-23 regular season, that’s a potential template for other young, developing prospects to utilize, as well.

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Takeaways: In defensive battle, Jabari Smith Jr. rallies Rockets past Chet Holmgren, Thunder