J.R. Smith Has Acted Out for Far Too Long, Denver Nuggets Must Cut Ties

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IApril 22, 2011

Look up the definition of "basketball enigma" and you'll find a picture of J.R. Smith, pouting as usual.

At first glance, J.R. Smith is the best basketball player on the court.

Look again, and he's flailing his arms around, throwing a temper tantrum more befitting of a five-year-old than a 25-year-old.

Smith is one of the most naturally talented basketball bodies in the world—he's 6'6" with quickness, speed and he possesses the ability to leap tall men in a single bound.

When he's on his game, Smith can shoot lights-out and is able to bring his team back from the brink of defeat and bury opponents at the end of games.

And beyond shooting threes and dunking, Smith has slowly become a better, underrated passer and his defensive effort has been noticeably improved this season. Still, Smith is lacking.

His potential always has been sky-high—Smith could be a top 10 player in the NBA but he gets in his own head, in his own way.

To say Smith has a problem with authority is an understatement; he's clashed with coaches his entire NBA career.

Fresh out of high school, Smith already thought too highly of himself, arguing with Hornets head coach Byron Scott and sealing his own fate out of the city of New Orleans.

The Hornets cut ties with the young player in only his second season, rather than attempt to mold him into something he isn't.

The reason the Nuggets got him so cheaply (Howard Eisley and two future first round picks) and took the risk on him was because his talents alone were so extraordinary.

In Denver, Smith has flourished more or less and has grown as a player and an individual.

He's become the Nuggets' career three-point leader, and is arguably playing the best basketball of his career this year—his seventh as a professional.

But the rate of his growth has been far too slow, the process too arduous and too painstaking even for the most patient coach to endure.

And George Karl has had to endure tirades for years by the young player whose ego is bigger than his tremendous vertical—this most recent one may have finally broken the camel's back.

Smith and Karl clashed in 2007 when Smith decided he would go wild and shoot the ball relentlessly.

After Game 4 against the Spurs, in which Smith struggled, Karl told the Associated Press, "He's done (for the rest of the series)."

Karl continued, "I have no idea what planet that (performance) came from. And then, of course the one with eight seconds to go, from 50 feet. I just love the dignity of the game being insulted right in front of me."

Karl finished his obviously frustrated rant saying, "He's a good-bad player. You evaluate his good, you evaluate his bad."

That statement from Karl just about sums up J.R. Smith. He's not consistently a good basketball player from a shot-selection, decision-making standpoint, which is why Karl plays him selectively during crunch-time situations.

Of course, that wasn't the only off-court distraction Smith has provided in his career, it was only the beginning of the craziness in Denver.

Smith was involved in a car accident with former teammate Carmelo Anthony as a passenger in February of 2007. In June of 2007, he was in another car accident that left his friend and the passenger at the time dead, and in August of 2009 he had to shut down his twitter account because of allegedly writing in a way that reflected upon the Bloods gang.

He acted immaturely, and wasn't proving he was learning from past mistakes.

During the 2009-10 season, J.R. Smith decided he would go by his given name, Earl, and he pronounced it to the media before a game in Chicago. Mere hours later, he reverted back to "J.R." because his email and text message inboxes became flooded with people telling him not to go by Earl.

Maybe Smith was/is too worried with what everyone else thinks instead of figuring out what's best for him.

Before this season, Smith allegedly got into an altercation at a Nuggets practice with a D-League player, resulting in the Denver police being called. Coaches told the D-Leaguer to play tough, physical defense on Smith.  J.R. apparently didn't like it and reacted with violence (although charges were not filed).

During this 2010-11 season, Smith has been pulled from games by Karl only to desert his teammates and run to the locker room—not exactly team solidarity shown by Smith.

Then J.R. spoke out Thursday, the day after he and his Nuggets teammates were blown out by the Thunder in Game 2 of their first round series.

Smith told the media there is a "strong possibility" he will not re-sign in Denver next season and that the team "had no pulse" in the loss to Oklahoma City.

Classic J.R. being J.R.

Any talk of J.R. maturing this season can be tabled with these recent outbursts, and this one in particular.

Only Smith could throw his team under the bus and throw out a distraction about likely not being with the team next year after the Nuggets got blown out by 15 to go down 2-0 in the series.

They say your character is judged by what you do when the going gets tough, and Smith is showing his true colors.

For far too long the Nuggets have hoped that J.R. Smith would turn the corner, prove that he's matured, and that he's willing to do the little things to improve on the hardwood and do whatever it takes to stay out of the headlines off the court.

But Smith hasn't turned that corner; every time he takes two steps forward, he takes three steps back, or just puts his foot in his mouth.

The Nuggets must cut ties with J.R. Smith now, even if it means losing the most gifted athlete on their team.

Who shot J.R.? He shot himself in the foot by acting out far too much for far too long.

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com, a weekly contributor to milehighhoops.com and a contributor to milehighreport.com writing on the Denver Broncos.

Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.

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