J.R. Smith And Denver Are Clashing

04.22.11 7 years ago 22 Comments

So you think you’re going to end up in a new city with a new team next year? So what? That happens all the time with dozens of players and it happens all over the country. But if you’re a Nuggets fan, you have to ask yourself, why J.R.?

Why now and why like this? Of course, if J.R. Smith wasn’t J.R. Smith, people probably wouldn’t care. Look at his numbers: in the playoffs, he’s getting a dozen minutes a game and contributing 5.5 points on 29 percent from the field. If this wasn’t the mercurial Smith we were talking about, no one would care. No one should care with those numbers. Now with starting two guard Arron Afflalo set to return in Game 3, Smith may not see the floor at all.

There are going to be fans, just as I noticed on Twitter during Game 2, that will say Smith isn’t getting enough minutes. He’s not getting enough touches for someone so talented. They must’ve missed Denver coach George Karl‘s postgame rant, when he basically said that whenever Smith was in the game, the Nuggets sucked.

The Denver Post’s Benjamin Hochman says the back and forth between player and coach has been going on for a few days.

But the reality is, after losing the first two games at Oklahoma City, the Nuggets “didn’t have a pulse” in Thursday’s team meeting, according to J.R. Smith, the mercurial guard who admitted there is “a strong possibility” he will sign with a new team this summer.

The talented reserve guard, routinely labeled a “good-bad player” by coach George Karl, was pretty much just bad in Game 2, shooting 1-for-6 in about seven minutes, while logging a minus-17 in plus-minus rating. This came after he had nine points and a minus-11 in Game 1.

Karl was told Thursday that if Smith isn’t clicking on the court right away, he feels the coach won’t give him a second chance.

“He gives us minus-17 in six minutes. Those guys shouldn’t get second chances,” Karl said in response. “I’m not saying it was all his fault, I’m just saying — when that happens, I’ve got to make a change. . . .

“I hope he’s ready to play on Saturday (in Game 3) and will be in a situation to bounce back.”

Smith didn’t talk to reporters after Wednesday’s Game 2 loss in Oklahoma City. But he opened up Thursday, after the team meeting, which he described as “just frustration, just really didn’t have any life in there. No one was really into it.”

After Game 2, Karl said once Smith got in the game, the “floodgates opened.” Asked Thursday about the statement, Smith said: “I don’t read the quotes anymore. I don’t even want to get into that. If he asks me to play, I’ll play. If not, I won’t. It’s kind of getting ridiculous.”

Smith will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and if there was ever a time he was going to cash in, it would be now. At 25 years old, this might be his one opportunity to get a big deal. But Smith hit his plateau about three years ago. Every team in the league knows what they are bidding on. He’s a seventh man who can give you 12-15 points off the bench, but will take a lot of bad shots and has a fleeting defensive focus. You can dismiss the word “potential” with Smith. This is what he is.

Since he came to Denver in 2006, Smith is in the top 30 in the entire league (of players who played more than a few games) in points per 48 minutes (26.6). He’s one of the most lethal streak shooters in the NBA. But how often does that happen? It’s obviously not enough for him to get minutes in the playoffs this year.

Smith believes he’ll be somewhere else next season and he’s probably right. But Denver fans must be wondering why’d he have to speak up now with his team down 0-2 and in the midst of one of the feel-good stories of the NBA’s second half? The timing isn’t great.

Where should J.R. Smith be playing next season?

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