AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) – NBA rookies, first-round picks and former Tigers, Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler both played in their first NBA game on Wednesday Night.
Smith saw the court first when his Houston Rockets took on the Atlanta Hawks in Smith’s home state of Georgia.
“I just took a moment to thank God,” said Smith “A lot of people don’t get the opportunity to open up in their hometown with 50-plus family members here so it’s just a blessing.”
The third overall pick showed that he will play a big role for the Rockets immediately, playing 33 minutes in what would eventually become a 117-107 Rockets defeat. The rookie’s playtime was second only to Kevin Porter Jr. who is fresh off an 82-million-dollar contract extension.
The 19-year-old scored 17 points in the loss on 6-17 shooting. Smith did a lot of his damage from beyond the arc scoring three three-pointers including his first NBA bucket.
“It felt good,” said Smith on his first bucket “when it went in I was just like ‘I’m finally here’ it was a special moment”
In addition to his scoring, Smith added seven rebounds and an assist.
At the same time, big man Walker Kessler made his presence known in the Beehive State.
Kessler was drafted with the 22nd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves before being dished to the Jazz in a blockbuster trade including Rudy Gobert.
The seven-footer looks like he’s found a home with his new team, becoming the first rookie in NBA history to record a double-double and shoot 100% from the floor in their debut.
Kessler went 5-5 from the field and put a couple more balls in the hoop at the charity stripe to finish with 12 points.
The seven-footer brought in 10 boards for the other half of his double-double and contributed an assist and a steal in his 24 minutes of action.
Kessler and the Jazz would walk away with a resounding win in their home opener defeating Nikola Jokić and the Nuggets 123-102.
With 81 games left in the season for both players, there’s no telling what the season has in store for the former Tigers.