This is from our “if you read one post today make it this one” file:
J.R. Smith — former Hornet, former Nugget, current enigmatic backup shooting guard for the Knicks — is one of the most fascinating people to league to follow. Mostly because his talent is undeniable and he rarely sticks to the script. We like rouges and rebels, Smith comes off as that.
But as we learn in a brilliant bit of writing by Jonathan Abrams over at Grantland, he is much more than that. Abrams goes back to the high school coaches (plural) of the even then temperamental star, talks to his father, and paints a picture that is not simple, that does not paint Smith as good or bad but as a complex person. Misunderstood and misguided.
Take for example his rough transition from high school star straight to the pros.
Smith’s father believes (then Hornets coach Byron) Scott didn’t help J.R. nearly enough, calling him a “good friend” before adding, “You’ve got a kid out of high school, you treat him as an adult, and you can’t do that. He’s with men and he’s done something wrong, you need to guide him with your hand and say, ‘No, you don’t do that.’ Or every time he comes with his shirt out, you fine him. You’ve got to nurture him. That’s with anything.”
(Randy) Holmes, Smith’s mentor from his Lakewood (high school in New Jersey) days, moved with Smith to New Orleans, where he witnessed the realities of the professional game affecting Smith’s confidence. “For the first time in his basketball career, he wasn’t the man,” Holmes said. “Coaches really got on him. Byron Scott is old-school. It’s his way or no way. You can just sit on that bench and rot if you don’t do what the coach wants you to do or you don’t get it.”
Smith went on to have George Karl as a coach, he has Mike Woodson now. The relationships are up and down. Misunderstood and misguided.
Really, just do yourself a favor, set aside a few minutes and go read Abrams entire piece. It’s the best thing you will read all day.