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Rockets’ Jabari Smith Jr. has no ill will toward Magic, Thunder

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When the Orlando Magic drafted Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 overall pick, the decision sent shockwaves throughout the NBA and was easily the biggest surprise of the evening.

Orlando was thought to be locked in on taking Jabari Smith Jr. first. Virtually every credible report indicated that Smith was the choice and would be the first name called by commissioner Adam Silver. What followed, of course, caught everyone off guard.

Including Smith himself.

The eventual third pick of the Houston Rockets saw the mock drafts and heard the noise. He, too, thought he’d end up in Central Florida. The choice seemed to be so cemented that Banchero even asked Rockets players questions about the team and city ahead of the draft.

By all accounts, the Magic pulled off one of the all-time great draft day posturing moves. Smith, speaking with Taylor Rooks of Bleacher Report, was among those surprised and was overcome with plenty of emotions at that moment.

I felt kinda surprised because of all of the mock drafts and me talking to other teams, I thought I would go higher. When it happened, all of the emotions and frustrations I had when my name wasn’t called first or second all went out the window because, at the end of the day, I just achieved my life-long dream. When the commissioner said my name, so many emotions left my body and they were all positive. I wasn’t really mad at it, it was more of a surprise and shock to me.

Smith, understandably, looked confused and genuinely perplexed once his name wasn’t called first, or even second by the Oklahoma City Thunder. The situation created one awkward moment on TV as the collective basketball community was still reacting to the news.

The 19-year-old only met with the Magic and Thunder ahead of the draft and was certain his floor would be No. 2. Despite all of the misdirection from the Magic and, to a lesser degree, the Thunder, Smith has no ill will toward either organization.

I see some of the people (in summer league) I was with when I visited them so I say hey to them and see how they’re doing and interact with them. There ain’t no hurt feelings or throw a side-eye at them or anything like that. I saw the vice president for OKC and the head coach for OKC and talked to them and caught up with them. They told me congratulations and all of that so it’s all good.

While Smith accepts the outcome of draft night, the former Auburn standout will still carry that with him in the back of his mind next season. He’ll certainly have a few dates circled on his calendar, specifically when the Rockets face the Magic and Thunder.

He had his first opportunity to play both teams in summer league.

Smith debuted on July 7 with the Rockets and recorded 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a loss to the Magic. He followed that up with 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocks in a win over the Thunder two nights later.

Following those games, Smith turned in two strong performances, recording 19 points in each of his next two appearances. Along with fellow rookies Tari Eason and TyTy Washington Jr., the trio has looked to be among the top first-year players to this point.

The results of draft night were certainly a shock for all, but all parties involved will now look to move forward and put it behind them. So far, in a very small sample, everyone involved appears to be doing quite well and will look to keep it that way for years to come.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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