In five seasons with the Nuggets, reserve guard J.R. Smith has been nothing if not interesting. He's regularly feuded with head coach George Karl, has proven to be one of the streakiest shooters in the game, and, oh yeah, has typically been one of the more productive bench scorers in the league. He's a supremely talented player who nevertheless frustrates his employers more often than a bust. He has been an enigma for so long that he's not even especially confusing anymore. This is just who he is.
Thursday, the soon-to-be free agent Smith gave perhaps his final controversial comments to the press regarding his role on the Nuggets. That's because, according to him, it looks like he won't be returning to the Mile High City. From Benjamin Hochman at the Denver Post:
Nuggets guard J.R. Smith, who played just six minutes in Wednesday night's Game 2, said there's a "strong possibility" he won't sign with the Nuggets this summer as a free agent, expressing frustration Thursday after the Nuggets went down 0-2 against Oklahoma City in the playoffs.
"There's a strong possibility as of right now," Smith said. "It's not going the way I planned it to go. It's a tough situation. I want to be here, I love the fans and everything about the city. It's just maybe not my fit."
The Nuggets had a team meeting on Thursday and Smith said the team didn't have "a pulse" as they regrouped at Pepsi Center.
"Just frustration, just really didn't have any life in there," Smith said. "No one was really into it."
Well, J.R. is certainly being his usual explosive self, huh? After comments like these, it's hard to believe he'll be a part of the Nuggets next season. Management usually doesn't want its players to question their teammates' work ethic in the midst of a playoff series, no matter how true it may be. That's especially the case when the first of two losses was a very close game that they very could have easily won on the road. Then again, Smith has acted out many times before and seen his way back into the rotation. What's to say he won't achieve an understanding with the Nuggets this offseason and find himself in powder blue next year?
Again, this is the kind of thing that Smith does all the time. It's as stupid as ever, though. For one thing, it will almost certainly hurt his value on an open market -- free-agent suitors probably won't be incredibly keen on a player whose final impression on his old team was to call everyone lazy and essentially say good riddance to all. Everyone knows J.R. can be a frustrating presence, but recent memory matters. If he'd kept his mouth shut, maybe other teams would look at him this offseason and think he could be a decent teammate in addition to an often electric player.
There's virtually no chance of that happening now. It's clearly time for Smith to leave Denver. It just would have been better for everyone involved if he'd kept his mouth shut. Smith is right -- the Nuggets surprisingly lacked energy Wednesday night and it very possibly carried over to Thursday's practice. But this is one time where honesty is not the best policy.
- the Nuggets