The complex personality, career of J.R. Smith

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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.

Russell Westbrook wears Craig Sager-inspired Jordan 1s

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The second anniversary of the death of NBA broadcasting legend Craig Sager is on Dec. 15 of this year, a span that has seemed too quick for those of us who grew up watching the colorful sideline reporter.

Sager passed in 2016 due to complications from leukemia, and the outpouring in his memory since from those around the NBA has been significant. While Sager is no longer with us, his memory lives on.

Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook pay tribute to Sager’s memory with a pair of custom Air Jordan 1s inspired by Sager’s famous sideline attire.

Via Twitter:

Sager was known for wearing crazy patterns, everything from hounds tooth to polka dost to tartan. I think Westbrook’s shoes paid fitting homage to Sager’s sartorial flair.

Perhaps Jordan would be willing to join forces and put the shoes on the market to benefit the Sager Strong Foundation? I’m sure these would sell well and come at a premium.

Karl-Anthony Towns misses free throw as Mavs fans chant ‘Jimmy Butler’

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Jimmy Butler is still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, largely for reasons that are beyond the capacity of most rational NBA fans.

Butler continues to play with a team as they enter the beginning part of the season, although owner Glen Taylor and his front office are professing to still be looking for a suitable trade partner.

Meanwhile, the tension between Butler and teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns must be palpable. It certainly has affected Towns at least in one way, as the Timberwolves big man missed a free throw after Dallas Mavericks fans chanted Butler’s name during one of Towns’ trips to the line

Via Twitter:

It’s hard to say whether Towns missed that free throw simply because of the chance or because sometimes guys miss free throws. Towns is an 84 percent shooter from the charity stripe, so you’d expect him to miss one once in a while.

Things continue to be weird in Minnesota, and this odd homeostasis can’t last for long.

Video appears to show Rajon Rondo spitting at Chris Paul

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Did Rajon Rondo spit on Chris Paul?

That’s the question everyone’s asking after Saturday night’s big brouhaha between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets which led to several objections and coming suspensions from the league office.

Various angles have been analyzed at length on social media, and indeed it was always apparent the NBA viewing public-at-large would get to the bottom of things. Around 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, we came to our logical endpoint.

Thanks to this new video, it does appear that Rondo spit at Paul.

Via Twitter:

The NBA league office is still reviewing the tape, but according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski they appear to have the clip in question in hand.

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the coming suspensions. First, how much Brandon Ingram will be penalized for instigating the entire thing with his shove in the back of James Harden. Ingram also came in with a flying punch to Paul’s face that might be looked at a bit more severely.

Second, both Paul and Rondo landed punches, but if Rondo indeed did spit on his competitor that’s a level of disrespect — not to mention responsibility for making the first move against Paul — that might get him a tougher sentence.

We haven’t seen a real fight in the NBA in some time, where actual punches were landed and things got more serious than just guys running between tunnels underneath Staples Center. How the league punishes these guys this early in the season will dictate to us in the future how they feel about this kind of tension spilling over into violence.

Check out Nikola Jokick’s perfect shooting triple-double

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Phoenix star rookie Deandre Ayton, welcome to the NBA. Please try to guard Denver’s Nikola Jokic in your second game.

That didn’t go well. Jokic finished with a triple-double of 35 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. However, it’s how he got there that was impressive: 11-of-11 from the field shooting, 10-of-11 from the free throw line, zero turnovers, four steals, and he threw in a blocked shot for good measure.

Jokic was +29 on the night and the Nuggets won 119-91. Denver is 2-0 to start the season.