J.R. Smith, Nuggets problem child: Play him, sit him or trade him?

Thumbnail image for jr smith i mage.jpg
"When I'm good, I'm very, very good. And when I'm bad..."
Why can't the Nuggets have crises one at a time instead of in bunches?

The latest: The day after Carmelo Anthony folded over his ankle late in an overtime victory against the New Orleans Hornets, coach George Karl is publicly talking about suspending J.R. Smith for sulking on the bench during the game.

Not that such an attempted wake-up call is likely to snap The Man Who Would Be Earl out of his funk. According to Hoopsworld.com, "Multiple well placed sources have indicated that Smith has made it abundantly clear through his actions and non-verbal behavior that he has no intention of listening to Karl."

Hoopsworld's Travis Heath writes that the J.R. problem "has been simmering for years now" -- and not just because he hasn't transformed himself in the way he promised after doing jail time over the summer in relation to a car accident that killed one of his best friends. Yet Heath reports that Nuggets brass and players are divided on how to resolve things: "Some members of the organization are infatuated with his undeniable talent and believe the light switch will eventually go on while others are frustrated with his persistent bad attitude and low basketball I.Q."

The latter group was so frustrated with J.R. last year, Heath asserts, that "they were advocating for a swap of Smith for Flip Murray when Murray was a member of the Detroit Pistons." (Murray comes to town tonight with his current squad, the Charlotte Bobcats.) Moreover, Heath maintains that communication between Karl and Smith has gotten so bad that he's currently using "assistant coach Tim Grgurich and others as a go between."

With Melo out, tonight's Bobcats contest seems like the perfect opportunity for the Nuggets to challenge Smith to step up -- to play smart, cut down on the idiotic shots, and otherwise prove that he can be good (and sometimes even great) J.R., as opposed to the pouty one. If, instead, Karl and company give him the night off to contemplate his future, view it as a last chance for him to prove that he wants to be part of the franchise.

And if he doesn't respond positively? The NBA trade deadline is February 19 -- and on that day, he could be making headlines.

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