07-25-2006, 11:54 AM
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Mile High City
Nuggets gain outside shooter in Smith
DENVER (AP) - J.R. Smith can almost envision superstardom.
Three years from now, Smith predicts he'll be a household name.
Let the clock start ticking.
"I'll be one of the premier guards in the league," Smith said Friday on his first day in Denver. "I'll definitely be one of the guys who has his own sneaker. I've always dreamt about stuff like that when I was a kid so why stop now?"
Smith, acquired from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for guard Howard Eisley and two second-round draft choices, arrives in Denver a humbled shooting guard.
Two years in the NBA has drained some of the confidence and swagger from the 20-year-old, who entered the league straight out of high school.
Now Smith is looking to get his game back on track. The 18th overall pick of New Orleans in 2004, he will be counted on by the Nuggets to provide a 3-point spark.
"We were 30th in the league - and you can't finish 31st in 3-point shooting," Denver director of player personnel Mark Warkentien said.
"We think we're getting a talented guy."
Smith has hit 31.6 percent from behind the 3-point line in his two-year career. However, he's 6-for-11 at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets wouldn't mind if he hit 55 percent for them.
"I hope so," said Smith, acquired by the Bulls on July 14 from New Orleans.
He's not feeling the pressure to be the Nuggets' 3-point savior, though.
"Every team wants a 3-point shooter, every team needs a 3-point shooter," Smith said. "Why not me on this team?"
Yet Smith won't spend extra time in the gym over the summer, working on his long-range shot. He's going to continue to play his style - shooting from the outside when it's open and driving to the hoop when he can.
"This got me here," he said. "Why change it up now?"
The Nuggets are getting a young, athletic player. The San Antonio Spurs thought enough of Smith to try to pull off a deal last season right before the trade deadline. Smith was minutes away from being dealt for Brent Barry when the deal fell through.
He thought the Bulls might keep him around and was a little caught off guard when he was traded to Denver. But he's here and expects to earn a starting job.
Smith may be an unknown player to most fans, but he's attempting to fix that.
"Right now everybody is asking, 'Who's he?"' Smith said. "When they see me they'll grab hold."
Smith, the co-MVP of the 2004 McDonald's All-America game, had originally committed to play for North Carolina before bolting to the NBA.
"Guys who stayed in college four years are starting to know what I've known the last two years," Smith said. "I learned to make certain moves on the defense. I learned shot selection - when to shoot the ball and when not to shoot the ball."
Even more, he learned that basketball gives you second chances.
Smith had a feud with Hornets coach Byron Scott last season. He doesn't understand what started the rift or made it unsolvable.
"We didn't have any meetings," Smith said. "(I) tried to set up meetings; he wouldn't have it.
"I'm looking to go forward from there. It's a new beginning."
On Friday after his workout, Smith was invited to lunch with Denver coach George Karl. The two were going to talk about what transpired between Smith and Scott. Karl wanted to hear it from his player, not what the rumor mill had spun.
"In order to know what I've gone through, you have to know my side of the story," Smith said. "There's always two sides.
"From him telling me that he wants to hear my side, I already know that he's a player's coach and he's the coach I'm looking for."
Smith is a player that needs to be nurtured, not lectured.
"Certain players can take constructive criticism and it makes them play harder," Smith said. "I'm one of those types of players ..."
Smith stopped to analyze what he was saying and then continued in generalizations.
"If you beat on him so much, eventually they're going to fall," Smith said. "At some point you've got to take him under your wing."
Karl, who has a connection with Smith because he played at North Carolina, has a plan like that in mind.
"He's a young player who probably needs some control over him, and some motivation to learn the game quickly," Karl said.
Smith's ready for a fresh start in Denver.
"(The last two years) definitely humbled me and made me realize what I really have to do to get to work in this league," Smith said. "(This) is a very athletic team and likes to get up and down the court. They're looking for somebody to make the outside shot when they double down on Carmelo (Anthony).
"Hopefully I'm the guy they can use."