J.R. Smith Not on Trading Block, Says Nuggets Executive
FanHouse reported Aug. 22 that Smith was on the trading block. But Ujiri, hired Aug. 27 as Denver's executive vice president of basketball operations, is counting on Smith remaining with the Nuggets.
"I have confidence,'' Ujiri told FanHouse on Monday when asked if he is confident Smith will be with the team throughout the season. "J.R. is here, and he's a Nugget.''
FanHouse reported Aug. 22 that among the reasons for Smith being on the trading block were: he is in the final year of his contract and the Nuggets don't want to lose him for nothing and that executive Mark Warkentien, one of Smith's biggest supporters, is no longer with the team. FanHouse's Sam Amick reported Aug. 25 that Smith was involved in an altercation Aug. 13 at the Nuggets practice facility when he allegedly choked a one-time D-League player during a pickup game.
But the Nuggets soon hired Ujiri, who was a Denver scout in 2006-07, Smith's first season with the team. He is a Smith supporter, and appears willing to look past the latest incident involving the mercurial guard.
It helps the situation that Smith will not face charges in the incident after that had been a possibility. Amick reported last week that police have closed the case, and Ujiri said Monday that's his understanding.
"I've been talking to J.R., and he's been very good,'' Ujiri said of Smith, who has been bogged down by a number of unflattering headlines in his Nuggets tenure, including having served 23 days in jail in 2009 for a reckless driving conviction in which he ran a stop sign in 2007 and a passenger in his vehicle was killed. "I know those things happen (the August incident). You just don't want them to happen continuously with one player. And (players) are going to make mistakes. But it's done. It's done. We've let that issue alone. We're moving forward.''
Smith, who declined to discuss last month's incident other than to say he never was interviewed by police, said he doesn't want to be traded by Denver. He's due to become a free agent next summer after earning a base salary of $6.03 million this season to conclude a three-year deal.
"This is where I want to be,'' Smith said. "I don't want to go anywhere else. I would like to be in a Denver Nuggets jersey this year.''
The odds of that happening apparently increased significantly after the Nuggets hired Ujiri.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on a Twitter @christomasson