J.R. Smith: License to shoot

J.R. Smith keeps it real with a sucker in his mouth. (Pic via kilosandgrams.com)

As I watched the Nuggets-Lakers game Thursday night, I got a chance to witness history.  Nuggets designated shooter J.R. Smith was on the verge of setting a franchise record for 3-point makes.  This meant even more crazy shots than usual.  Smith built up the drama by launching nearly every time he got the ball in the first half.  His fourth 3-pointer of the half broke the Nuggets all-time mark held by Michael Adams, touching off a one-man celebration which featured a skipping Smith yelling at the sky.

Smith is well-known for taking any shot at any time.  He ruins possessions by launching long 3’s.  When he gets locked in, it’s magical to watch.  When he can’t find the range, it becomes comical–or infuriating if you happen to be his teammate.

The NBA has a handful of guys who don’t want to pass the ball–most of them have recent or current ties with the New York Knicks.  Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson, Al Harrington, Jamal Crawford (getting better), Nick Young, and Ben Gordon are the biggest culprits.

The difference between that list and Smith–pure talent.

Not many NBA players can match Smith’s combination of range and athleticism.  He has size, strength, handle, ability to play defense when he wants to (he rarely wants to) and the ability to make impossible shots.  That sounds like a superstar in the making.

Here’s the problem: J.R. has a bad case of basketball A.D.D.

In the 72 games he has played this season, Smith is averaging 13.7 field goal attempts in 27 minutes per game.  Nearly half of those attempts are from 3-point land; Smith takes a whopping six 3’s per game despite being only a 33 percent shooter from downtown.

He is shooting just a shade over 41 percent this season overall.

The main reason for his low percentage, besides the fact that he isn’t a great shooter, is his horrendous shot selection.  He takes some of the longest 3-pointers you will ever see–sometimes from two or three feet beyond the line.  When he decides to  put the ball on the deck, he rarely uses his jaw-dropping athleticism to get to the rim, preferring to settle for fade-away jumpers.

Almost every time I watch the man in the bright neon yellow Nike’s play, I see flashes.  He can concentrate and apply himself for short stretches, but he will inevitably revert to his bad habits.

George Karl has learned to tolerate it, occasionally bench Smith when he goes overboard.  Adrian Dantley seems to be in over his head.  Under his direction, the shots will fly and the ball-movement will stop.

So by the end of the first half Thursday, Smith had already attempted nine 3-pointers.  He was going to get the record–nothing was going to get in his way.

Keep shooting J.R.

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