Knicks J.R. Smith, an Unpredictable Talent, Still Has Upside
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To N.B.A. fans, J.R. Smith is a known quantity. He is always ready to launch a contested 3-pointer off the dribble with 18 seconds on the shot clock. He is uncoachable. He cannot deal with not getting his way. He has a rap sheet.

On the court, George Karl has referred to him as a “good bad player,” meaning he rarely chooses to do the right thing but frequently is talented enough to make the wrong thing work.

Off the court, he is deemed an individual not to be taken seriously. When he asked to be called Earl, his given name, instead of J.R., it was dismissed as some kind of joke and the news media continued to refer to him solely as J.R. If I called him Earl Smith III, most readers would have no idea who I was talking about.

It is undeniable Smith has brought most of this on himself. He is the one who has failed to live up to his talent. He is the one who has made mistakes on, and most tragically, off the court. He is the one who has chosen to storm off the court and remove himself from his team.

Despite all of this, I, for one, still hold out hope that Smith, 26, can prove his detractors wrong.

Smith burst onto the scene sharing Most Valuable Player honors with another young phenom named Dwight Howard in the 2004 McDonald’s all-American game, which included other young talents like Josh Smith, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Marvin Williams and LaMarcus Aldridge. That night, J.R. Smith drained five 3-pointers and threw down a slew of nasty dunks. After the game, he claimed he was inspired by the presence of a young N.B.A. star sitting courtside named Carmelo Anthony. That night ignited his N.B.A. career.
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