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J.R. Smith issue threatens Nuggets’ goal of NBA title

Benjamin Hochman
The Denver Post
Denver Nuggets J.R. Smith is in the game against Charlotte Bobcats at Pepsi Center on Monday. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post
ALL | THE DENVER POST

Forget scares of a suspension, extra shooting practice and media training. The whole J.R. Smith mess comes down to this: The Nuggets’ singular goal is to win an NBA championship, and if Smith doesn’t change his antics, it could affect the team’s chances.

“He’s one of our best players, and if you have one of your best players not either playing at his best or acting as best he can, it’s going to affect the team,” said Nuggets captain Chauncey Billups, who has played in two NBA Finals, winning one. “And his role has been increased this year. The last couple years, he maybe wasn’t a player we had to lean on every night. We need J.R. (this year). He knows that. We need him to be right – at all times.”

Nuggets management considered suspending Smith after the guard’s pouting antics during Saturday’s game but backed off Monday. Against Charlotte on Monday night, he scored 12 points and was 2-for-9 from 3-point range, though coach George Karl said: “I thought he played with a focus and intensity. He knew it had to be a serious game.”

After speaking just briefly after Monday’s shootaround, he avoided the media by slipping out the side door after the game. When asked by a team-employed nuggets.com writer about potential criticism from the media, he said: “I don’t worry about that stuff. They’re out there just trying to sell newspapers. They can say what they want.”

Management, including Karl, is hoping the possibility of a suspension might scare Smith straight. Then again, Smith has already had two suspensions for off-court behavior, served 24 days in jail last summer for his role in a fatal car crash and had countless pep talks from the coaching staff. Karl is open to anyone helping Smith realize he needs to be more coachable.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_14267310#ixzz0dk487vnw


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