J.R. Smith Stands by Tweet Calling Nuggets 'Selfish'
"You play selfish you lose selfish that's all I'm saying about the game!'' Smith (@JR_Swish) tweeted before Denver's plane departed Salt Lake City after the 117-106 loss that left the Nuggets trailing 3-1 in the West first-round series.
Well, Smith said more Monday.
"We just played selfish,'' he said in an interview with FanHouse. "When we don't play selfish basketball, we win. ... We were passing the ball. We just weren't finding the open man. It just looked selfish.''
The Nuggets had just 13 assists Sunday. But acting coach Adrian Dantley did not believe Smith, who had two of those assists while shooting 3 of 10 for 10 points, should have tweeted what he did.
"What do you want me to say, 'He shouldn't make that comment?' I don't know,'' Dantley said. "He shouldn't have made that comment.''
Although Smith's tweet has made the rounds on the Internet, he's not concerned.
"No, my Twitter is always everywhere, so I'm not worried,'' said Smith, who admitted to FanHouse last month one reason he had tweeted, "Don't get me wrong, Kobe (Bryant) is great but not when he play me,'' was to get his followers up.
Some might think Smith, who has about 30,000 followers, should be spending more time now on his game than Tweeting. After scoring 20 points in Game 1, he's averaged just 9.0 points in the next three games while shooting 9 of 30, including 3 of 13 from three-point range.
"I've just got to get involved early,'' Smith said about Wednesday's Game 5 at the Pepsi Center. "Start getting in more pick-and-rolls with [center] Nene, and everything should be working out.''
At least he has an idea. Dantley, having taken over for George Karl, who is battling a form of throat cancer, seems at a loss at how to get Smith going again.
"What do I have to do to get J.R. going?'' Dantley said. "I don't know. What do you think? Let him shoot more? ... I don't know how to answer that question: How do I get J.R. going?''
The often-erratic Smith has been getting plenty of national airtime, and it hasn't been pretty. On TNT on Sunday, studio analyst Charles Barkley all of a sudden started looking under the table where he sits. When host Ernie Johnson asked what he was doing, Barkley said he was looking for Smith.
Karl was critical of Smith in an interview with Rick Reilly that aired during the weekend on ESPN and ABC, although it's hardly the first time Karl has criticized him. Karl spoke with Reilly while the two watched last Friday's Game 3.
"Mercurial,'' said Karl, after Reilly used that word in describing Smith and was asked if it's at least nice to get a break from him. "No, it's harder coaching here (watching on television). When he shoots the ball set, he's fine. It's when he plays off dribble and does his (Karl moves his head around in a funny motion). Runs around in circles. Kills grass. Dribbles in the same spot, but he thinks he's going some place.''
Smith said he hasn't seen the piece yet, and was first told of Karl's comments by FanHouse. He said he won't let it bother him now but wished Karl had expressed those sentiments earlier.
"It has an effect on my game," Smith said of Karl in general being critical of him. "But I'm not going to let it affect me now. It's too late in the season for it to affect my game. It's the playoffs. We should have talked about that in training camp.''
But then Smith was asked if he agrees with Karl, who has been gone from the team for more than a month. And he does.
"I think he's right,'' Smith said. "I think I've got to do a better job of catching and going. That's my game.''
While Smith and Karl have clashed plenty during the four years the two have been together in Denver, he said the coach's absence is affecting the team.
"We miss him a lot,'' Smith said. "He's one of the keys to this team. His coaching style. We miss him a lot. I'm sure if the Lakers go into the playoffs without Phil [Jackson], it would be tough as well.''
Only eight teams in NBA history have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, one being Detroit, featuring current Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, fighting back against Orlando in 2003. Smith believes it can be done again.
"I'm not concerned,'' Smith said. "People have come back from that before. Chauncey has been in that position before. ... I think so (about coming back to win the series). That's just the team we are. We're always up against the ropes. It should be nothing for us to fight out of the corner. ... It's proven that we have been (better fighting out of the corner).''
For now, Smith believes the Nuggets need to be less selfish even if that opinion isn't necessarily shared on the team.
"It's frustrating to lose,'' Billups said. "People can really say what we they want. At any rate, when we win, we win together. ... I don't think that we've been specifically selfish. I think the style that we play is not a high-assist-volume team. Like Utah's. The style they play, they're able to move it every time down. They're going to have 25, 30 assists most nights. ... Our system is kind of run and it's isolations, and you can't get a lot of assists like that. So I don't think (looking at) assists, we're really being selfish.''
Nevertheless, Smith doesn't seem to care what others might think of his Tweeting. About four hours after his "selfish'' tweet, Smith tweeted apparently jokingly, "i got the twiiter (sic) goons on my back!''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson