Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith came into Denver Nuggets training camp as the two likely players to be traded, besides Carmelo Anthony. And while one has done all the right things, the other not so much.
Martin, who will likely be out at least until January, has made it apparent that he is not happy that the Nuggets haven’t offered him an extension. Which is pretty obvious to everybody, but K-Mart. Martin is just finishing off arguably the worst contract in the NBA ($91 million for 7 years) and has spent nearly as many games in the training room as he has on the floor (he played 323 games; missed 169). He hasn’t averaged more than 15 points since his first season with the team. Offensively he has frustrated many with his need to shoot a 20-foot jumper, instead of driving his defender to the basket. But Martin is also one of the Nuggets best defenders and emotional leader, so he is valuable.
Martin is never shy to say what he believes, but it often gets him in trouble. He even had some choice words for some of the reporters Friday at practice. All in all, K-Mart is probably frustrated with the knees and the state that the Nuggets are in. Martin in many ways is like Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks. Martin strongly believes that he will get back into form and be able to play another five seasons, but considering that he almost 34 and his knees are very beat up it will be hard to see him return to form and will probably be in a reserved situation. Either way he is more valuable to the Nuggets as an expiring contract, which will help the team come trade deadline or with his contract coming off the books at the end of the season.
Smith, who is also in a contract year, has been having his best training camp. Probably motivated to make more money Smith has been working hard at training camp, he lost weight and is buying into what George Karl is saying. Of course for many that is hard to believe after seeing JR play the previous four seasons and more likely than not is fools gold. What makes Smith valuable, and not valuable at the same time is his ability to get hot. It would be very surprising to see JR in a game situation not wanting to be JR. And one might ask themselves has Smith really changed? Or is it because he wants a new contract or is Karl and the Nuggets trying to improve his value to trade him. Whatever is the case it helps the Nuggets, Smith was one of the most frustrating player for the coaches and the fans last season and if he truly is buying into the system Denver could be dangerous. And at the same time if he does play well teams may be come calling and be offering more than Smith is worth.