In his five seasons in Denver, J.R. Smith has been one of the most controversial athletes to ever come to the Mile High City.
One second he electrifies you with eye-popping dunks and amazing shots, next he frustrates you with careless turnovers and his questionable shot selection – not to mention his immaturity on the bench and off the court.
Smith is a headache for any head coach, as most fans have witnessed with his troubling relationship with George Karl. And while fans are quick to blame Karl for the relationship issues, Karl wasn’t the first coach to butt heads with Smith. Former Hornets coach Byron Scott was quick to trade Smith after coaching him for two seasons.
In fact, one of those seasons was when the Hornets played in Oklahoma City where fans were quick to blame Scott for benching Smith.
Current Milwaukee Bucks coach and former Chicago Bulls coach didn’t even give Smith a chance and exchanged him in the offseason for Howard Eisley and picks.
While it isn’t fair to blame a single player for the Nuggets loss on Wednesday, it also isn’t fair to blame the loss on Karl’s lack of playing Smith. Smith’s decision making was a key factor in the Thunder pushing their lead from 10 to 26 in his six minutes on the floor.
And what makes Wednesday’s loss more frustrating is that is has now become about Karl and Smith and not what went wrong in the game. Karl made some question decisions in the second half, especially after not playing Chris Andersen and going small with Kenyon Martin at center. But benching Smith wasn’t one of those questionable decisions.
Smith is a guy that you depend on to give you instant offense and a spark off the bench, and he didn’t have it in Game 2. To his credit he has improved his decision making this season, but it hasn’t been apparent in the playoffs. And he has struggled mightily against the Thunder this season.
And sadly, he isn’t making life any easier for the Nuggets or himself after his comments today after saying he probably won’t resign.
It is eerie similar to how he acted during last season’s playoff series against Utah. He called his team selfish, not to the media, but on Twitter last season. Just not good timing in either occasion, especially since the Nuggets are only down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Right now it is a lose-lose situation for everybody involved. Even if Smith goes off on Saturday and leads the Nuggets to victory, he has already burned his bridge with the Nuggets organization. However, if he struggles again and Karl is forced to bench him – again – it isn’t very likely the Nuggets will win and Denver would once again struggle to find a spark.
All in all, right now is a lose-lose situation for all involved.
New Nuggets struggling
Two months ago the consensus with most fans and many in the NBA, was the Nuggets were lottery-bound after trading Carmelo Anthony.
However, a late surge to the season has many believing this Nuggets team is better than it really is.
With nine players that are 26 years old and younger the Nuggets will experience some growing pains as they have in the series with the Thunder.
- Wilson Chandler has made 4-16 during his first two playoff games and has obviously been affected by the play of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
- Danilo Gallinari couldn’t repeat his performance from Sunday night and struggled with his decision making. One play in particular showed his youth in which he stole the pass and had a two-on-one and decided to early to take himself and missed the shot after the defender committed to him.
- Raymond Felton has been about as consistent as a Nugget there is. However, he has tried to be a scorer more than facilitator in the playoffs. Felton had only two assists in Game 2 after dishing out eight in Game 1.
In AAA we trust
Nuggets fans have done everything outside of made a statue of Arron Afflalo for Game 3. Much like they did with Kenyon Martin last season, Nuggets fans have made Afflalo out to be answer to the team’s struggles.
Obviously, the Nuggets are a better team with Afflalo’s hard working and never give up attitude. But to put him down as the answer to all of the problems is a little much. Afflalo is not at the level of Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, especially not an injuried Afflalo.
Topics: Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Andersen, Denver Nuggets, George Karl, J.R. Smith, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Durant, Melo, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Raymond Felton, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler