View Full Version : J.R. Smith and Nene = The Keys to a Successful Nuggets Season

10-29-2008, 10:09 AM
I love the humility and awareness of his continuing need to work on his game that J.R. shows in this article. And it's great to hear Karl publicly praising him, too.

Smith holds keys to success
Nuggets hope last season's strong finish carries over

Even in a Nuggets jersey, J.R. Smith's arms are sleeved.

And those über-tattooed limbs may arguably be the biggest deciding factor between the Nuggets remaining a playoff contender or becoming an afterthought. The 82-game verdict on Smith's impact on the Nuggets' success begins tonight in Utah.

"I think he's a big key to our team's success," all-star forward Carmelo Anthony said. "Coming off the bench, bringing that firepower off the bench."

Armed with a strong finish last season; a new three-year, $16.5 million contract; and an offseason spent working as a scout player against the U.S. Olympic team, Smith believes he's getting closer to his true potential. But ask the 6-foot-6, 23-year-old guard how far he is from reaching full potential, and he said he is a long way off.

"I'm not even close," Smith said. "I think I have another 40 percent to be a complete player, especially being more of a combo guard."

Asked if he can cover the remaining 40 percent this season, Smith hedged.

"That's my plan, that's my goal, definitely," he said. "I don't know. That's a (huge) jump. But I'm going to shoot for it."

Smith's career path is littered with rough-around- the-edges play, spectacular offensive shows and questionable decision-making and shot-taking.

Still, "the shots that he takes at a critical time, that's his game," Anthony said. "J.R.'s a shooter. He's a scorer, he's an offensive player. We know what we're getting into with J.R. Smith. If somehow I can't take the last shot and he takes the last shot, we can live with that. As long as it's not an outrageous shot or anything."

Unlike last season, Smith doesn't have to worry about being in coach George Karl's doghouse. Outside of a couple ill-advised shots in exhibition games, Karl said he has been happy with Smith's play during training camp and in preseason games.

"I gotta give him a compliment," Karl said. "His understanding of what we want from him is improving. He still has an immaturity to his game that drives us up the wall at times. But it's definitely getting less and less every month."

But there is also no doubt Smith has improved his overall game. In his final 30 games a season ago, he was one of the NBA's best bench players, averaging 15.7 points in 21.8 minutes, shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line and 46 percent from the field. His points per minute in that stretch were nearly identical to NBA scoring champion Kobe Bryant.

That's the kind of talent the Nuggets invested in during the offseason with the new contract. Mark Warkentien, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations, praised Smith's work during the offseason. But the reality of the contract is it is rich in incentives. Three years indicates the organization is committed, but if Smith's progress relapses, the team is not married to the guard. It means there is incentive for Smith to grow as a player and get a mega-contract down the line.

Smith's ability to carve the mistakes out of his game has him on some people's short list of players to keep an eye on for the NBA's most improved player award. And for that matter, pencil him in on the NBA's sixth man award watch list.

Most nights, Smith will be the first substitute off the bench and his minutes should climb to more than 25 per game this season. He averaged 19.2 a year ago.

"I think J.R. is one of the premier talents in the league, but talent doesn't make a basketball player," Karl said. "There's a combination of commitment, basketball education and understanding team is more important than individual.

"There's a lot of things that J.R. is learning. But the process is he's still got to continue to learn."post (http://www.denverpost.com/nuggets/ci_10840506?source=rss)

And the news about Nene's conditioning and work on his post play is excellent.

For years now people in the Nuggets' organization have talked about Nene's All-Star potential. With Camby gone, now is the time he has to realize it.

"That is my goal for the season," Nene said of playing at an All-Star level. "I'm going to work hard. I worked out a lot this summer, and I spent just 15 days in Brazil. I'm going to be able to take care of the pressure and the responsibility."

This summer... Nene worked out nearly everyday with Denver strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess to ensure his body would be ready for the grind of being a starting center in the NBA.

"I feel great," explained Nene. "I worked with Steve, and I worked out with (assistant coach) John Welch. I also worked with (assistant coach) Jamahl (Mosley) in the post on hook shots and jump shots. I feel prepared for the season and very comfortable."

"The responsibility is the same," Nene insisted. "My game is going to change, the position is going to change. A lot of other players are going to step-up, too. It's not only me. There are five players on the court, and the five players together make the whole."

"If I had to predict or think about what's going to happen, I think because of him missing most of last year he could get into foul trouble early in the season," Karl explained. "His edge -- his athletic edge -- will take some time to get into the game. His ability to work with A.I. and Melo and figuring out the things he's capable of doing isn't going to happen overnight. But I think if we can get him to play 70 to 75 games at 30 minutes or more a game -- and that might stand for Kenyon also -- if we can get those guys to 70-game seasons and 30 to 35 minutes a night that would be good."hoopsworld (http://www.hoopsworld.com/Story.asp?story_id=10376)

If both of these guys can find a way to step up on a consistent basis throughout the season, this team is going to surprise the hell out of a lot of NBA fans.

10-29-2008, 05:35 PM
Smith should have a really good season, he knows whats expected of him, and he seems like he wants to work towards a goal. He is just screaming with potential, and like it said up above, he has Kobe like numbers if his time was stretched a bit. He could be the next, do I dare say it, Kobe, long long way to go, but I think he could do it if he keeps his mind to it. Im really interested to see him play this season and see how much he's improved.

Id like to say something about Kmart and Nene and a team inside of a team quick...

Kenyon I think still has a lot of potential, he is getting older and its weird to say that, but now that he was healhty and was improving throughout all of last season, and I think he is going to be a more dedicated and hard working player this season. He will become the dunk all over you kind of player of old, plus a more all around team player, defender, and rebounder.

Nene, I can't say enough about how much I expect him to be, his potential is crazy in my eyes. He has size, athletics, from what we've seen and heard in the preseason, and he did learn a bit from Camby. He is going to improve on rebounds, become a definate post threat, and man, idk, he jut seems like someone who could be a most improved player type of deal, just he hardly played last season. He seems like he could take TD-for sure!, Bosh, CAMBY, Shaq (although he is smaller), Chandler, GASOLLLLLLL, Bynum...all those guys don't seem superior to Nene to me. If Nene became a really smart player he could dominate.

A lot of people say that this season is going to be about Melo maturing and having a breakout season for the Nuggets, I think the Nugget's season is depending more on how Nene and Kmart play together down low, and how Smith compliments them off of the bench.....along with Melo being a leader this season.

PS Smith is going to beat Ginobli for best player off the bench this season, I saw it in a vision I had, lol
ok, no vision, just gut feeling