J.R. Smith: 'My name is Earl'

Nuggets guard J.R. Smith(notes) made his season debut in Chicago on Tuesday, following a seven-game suspension due to a reckless driving conviction. The court case stemmed from a 2007 car accident that killed one of Smith's closest friends.

Smith spent 24 days in jail as part of his plea agreement, and he emerged from the slammer with a new outlook on his life, his career and his name. In fact, from now on, he wants to be called Earl.

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post explains:

His given name is Earl Smith III, but he got "J.R." because people would call him "junior," even though, yeah, he's actually a third-generation Earl.

Regardless, the Denver sharpshooter is now Earl Smith III — which should lead to some cutesy puns about "III" and "3-pointers."

"I just felt like changing it," Smith said Tuesday morning at the Nuggets shootaround, in preparation for [the Bulls] game [...] "It's been a long time, and J.R. has no significance to my name. My name is Earl, so I figured — why not?"

Why not, indeed!

Asked if he was changing his name to get a "fresh start," Smith said: "I'm tired of getting fresh starts. Saying it's a fresh start is making excuses for what's gone on in the past. I don't want to do that. I'm just going to go by my real name."

Let's hope this works better than that one time Manny Lee wanted to be called Manuel.

UPDATE: Well, so much for that expirement. Smith has already made the move back to being J.R. Seriously. "There was too much controversy with the switch," Smith told The Denver Post after Denver's 90-89 win in Chicago. "I got a lot of calls and text messages and e-mails. It wasn't a good move."

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