J.R. Smith Talks to the Denver Media

The following is the transcript from Nuggets guard J.R. Smith's first ever media availability in Denver, Colorado. Members of the local media congregated at the Pepsi Center on Friday, July 21 to welcome Smith to Denver and get a feel for the Nuggets' newest player. Smith, a third-year player who entered the NBA straight out of high school, was acquired by the Nuggets in a trade with the Chicago Bulls that sent Howard Eisley and two second round selections to Chicago.

Here is what Smith had to say:

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Are you looking forward to a fresh start with the Nuggets, J.R.?
J.R. Smith: Oh yeah. It’s a new beginning so I think I’m ready and eligible to play with these guys, and can’t wait.

What do you have to say to all the haters out there who are saying you had a falling out with Byron Scott and that people are giving up on you?
JR: I mean, I let people say what they’re gonna say. This is a fresh start for me and a new team so we’ll see what I bring to the table with this team.

What is it you think you do bring to the table for this team? Obviously they don’t have a lot of three-point shooters.
JR: This is a very athletic team and they like to get up and down the court and they’re looking for somebody to make the outside shot when they double down on Carmelo [Anthony], so hopefully I’m that guy they can use.

How do you see yourself playing with Carmelo? ‘Cause obviously 26 points per game, one of the big-time scorers in this league, and not necessarily having that with the Hornets. What’s it gonna be like for you playing with a guy like Carmelo?
JR: I think it’s gonna be great, because great players make the players around them great. Playing with Melo will be a great experience and I just can’t wait to get on the floor with him.

Have you had a chance to speak with anyone in the organization? Players, coaches, etc?
JR: Well I just got done talking to Coach [George] Karl, so he just told me what they expect of me. Get up and down the court, make open shots, just be a great teammate and great player.

What do you think of playing for a guy like Coach Karl?
JR: I think he’s great ‘cause he’s a Carolina guy. So that’s always good when you’re dealing with a Carolina person.

This team is so desperate for a three-point shooting threat. Do you feel the pressure because you are being brought in for that reason?
JR: No not at all because every team wants a three-point shooter, every team needs a three-point shooter, so why not be me on this team?

Do you have any family in Denver?
JR: Nah, all my family is in Jersey.

So you haven’t spoke with any of the players yet, correct?
JR: No not yet. Nene’s up there working out, so I’ll go talk to him in a while.

How do you see this team? What type of potential do you see, yourself adding to this team, Nene being retained on the team? How far do you think this team can go just looking at the roster, and how confident are you in its ability?
JR: I think we can go all the way because the talent this team has and the chemistry that we’re gonna build in training camp and throughout the rest of the season. I mean last year they had a lot of injuries so getting everybody back this year and having the top three big men, probably the best big men, size in the league. I think we’ll do great.

What do you see as your role next season? Do you anticipate being the starting two-guard?
JR: It’s kind of hard to say right now because I haven’t seen everybody and the whole roster so, I mean, of course right now that’s my goal to shoot for the starting spot, but right now I wouldn’t be mad or upset if I wasn’t.

J.R., Knowing they’re bringing you in here for such a specific role, they’re desperate for outside shooting, will that change your workout regimen in the off-season, will you shoot an extra hundred or two jump shots or…?
JR: Nah, I’m just gonna work hard like I always do. Keep shooting the ball, keep driving to the basket, just to bring more tools to the table so they just don’t see me as an outside threat.

So you don’t try to change your game at all?
JR: No not at all because eventually this got me here, doing what I’ve been doing, so why change it up now?

Through everything that happened in New Orleans, do you feel like you got a bum wrap? Do you have something to prove?
JR: No, I try not to prove anything to anybody, except for myself, knowing that I can play this game with the top guys in the world. So just to prove stuff to myself, my players and my coaches, everybody else is irrelevant. From the Denver Nuggets on, that’s just what I’m worried about.

What was your issue with Coach Scott, and are you concerned with image issues and that kind of thing?
JR: To tell you the truth, right now I don’t even really know what my issue was. It was just a big thing, a miscommunication, so I'm just looking to go forward from that.

You were in Denver for the Slam Dunk Contest, you had that behind the back dunk you tried to pull off, do you think you got robbed here?
JR: No, Josh [Smith] did a great job, and then what Amare [Stoudemire] and Steve [Nash] did was crazy, so it was a tough choice.

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Do you have fond memories though? Did you get a chance to see the city when you were here?
JR: Oh yeah, I had a great time here, the nightlife was great, but the city itself is even better. When you first think of Denver, you like oh man it’s freezing out there, but it’s not as bad as people think.

So you thought you were gonna go to Chicago? Happy the way things turned out?
JR: Oh yeah, Denver is a perfect spot for me. Two-guard, they really need a two-guard. Like I said, they need a shooter, so when they double down on Carmelo, that’s when I make my shot, that’s what they need.

When do you think people stopped seeing you as a shooter and started seeing you as a slasher/athlete? You came out of high school known for your shooting, didn’t you?
JR: Yeah. I think I proved that when I get the ball on the open breaks, I just finish the ball more.

Do you think people lost that aspect of you, or do you think they still see you as a shooter?
JR: I think they respect me more as athletic, a lot of big men make sure I don’t get no dunks during the game, so they’d rather foul me. They’d rather have me shoot the ball from deep than closer to the rim.

I looked it up the other day, you were talking about how you’ve had good games in Denver, you’re 6 out of 11 on threes. Pretty good. Can you keep shooting 66% here?
JR: I hope so.

Do you think you might catch some of the fans off guard in Denver? I mean, some of the hardcore basketball fans know you and know your game above the rim, but this move from some of the fans, they don’t even know who J.R. Smith is. Do you think you’ll catch them off guard and maybe bring some excitement?
JR: Yeah I think so because, like you said, right now everybody’s asking me “who is he”, “what does he do.” So when they first get to see me, I think they’ll grab hold.

You ever wonder what might have been at Carolina? They won a national championship, you could have been in the middle of it.
JR: Yeah, all the time. Me and Coach Karl was just talking about that actually, ‘cause he’s a Carolina guy. I think about it all the time, but now I’m with a Carolina guy anyway, so good things work out for good people.

Are you happy that you made the jump straight to the NBA? Do you think it was a good move in hindsight?
JR: Oh yeah, I definitely do because getting to know what I know early on, I mean, opposed to guys who stayed in college for four years, they’re just starting to know what I’ve know for the last two years. I think I got an early crack at it.

If you could compare your game to another player, I know sometimes comparisons are tough, but is there a player that you see yourself being most like in the NBA either today or in years past?
JR: Probably Vince Carter. Athletic, can shoot the ball from outside, always an offensive threat, everybody must know where he’s at on the floor at all times.

You said you learned a lot in two years, what did you learn?
JR: I’ve learned how to make certain moves against the defense. How to read certain plays, try to make the better play for the team. Knowing shot selection, when to shoot the ball, when not to shoot the ball. When we definitely need a bucket, when to get to the free-throw line. A lot of mental things about the game.

What do you think you bring to the court on the defensive end? Because everyone is talking about your shooting, which is well chronicled the Nuggets need shooting, but to play for George Karl defense is imperative. What do you bring on that end of the floor?
JR: I’m quick, so its not easy to blow by me so a lot of guys are gonna really start seeing that because they haven’t really seen it in New Orleans and Oklahoma so they’re really gonna get to see how quick I am on defense and how good I am on help defense for my team.

George is kind of planning out your itinerary, he said he hopes you’re in the gym here September fifth, he’s hoping you’re in Vegas for Grg’s (Coach Grgurich) camp in August, does that sound good to you?
JR: Oh yeah, that sounds perfect. I’m going to Grg’s camp and then right after Grg’s camp I’m shooting right back here to try to get everything situated, start working out with my coaches, start getting to know the plays early, so I have a jumpstart on it so it’s not like I just finally got here.

Are you familiar with any of the guys on the team, in terms of have you spent much time with them?
JR: Yeah. Like Carmelo, DerMarr [Johnson], I’m from Jersey so I’ve seen Kenyon [Martin] play a lot when he was in Jersey, Andre Miller. So I have a grasp for those guys from playing in a variety of all-star games and stuff like that.

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How much have you talked to George [Karl] already? Just last night and this morning?
JR: This is the first time I’ve really spoke with him, today, in person. We’re supposed to go out to lunch after I get done in the gym, so.

He (Karl) said that with all that’s happened with Byron Scott, he always likes to hear the player’s side first before maybe talking to a coach. Do you think that’s something important to you to let him know where you’re coming from?
JR: Yeah that’s real important to me because in order to know what I was going through or been through, you have to know my side of the story. There’s always two sides to a story so just from him telling me that he wants to hear my side, I already know he’s a player’s coach and he’s the coach I’m looking for.

Sometimes it’s hard with kids coming straight out of high school, making the adjustment and all that. It takes a little longer, even Kobe [Bryant] started out kind of slow. Where do you expect to be in this league in say three years?
JR: One of the premier guards for this league, definitely one of the guys who has his own sneaker of course, stuff like that. I always dreamt about stuff like that when I was a kid so why stop now?

Do you have a sneaker deal now?
JR: Yeah, adidas.

But you want your own, like ‘Melo and LeBron [James]?
JR: Yeah, something like that.

So the last two years, have they humbled you?
JR: Oh yeah, definitely. Before that I’ve always been on the court, never knew what it was to be benched or stuff like that so I think it definitely humbled me. It made me realize what I really have to do to get to work in this league.

It's been said that really the only thing you need is to be nurtured. Somebody to reach out to you and help you out. Do you agree with that? That you didn’t get that in New Orleans/Oklahoma City?
JR: From a coach’s standpoint, I don’t think I got that. But from a team standpoint, I had P.J.Brown, I think he did a great job with me. So when I was around my vets I was always taken care of, but from a coach’s standpoint I think that's right.

Why do you need that?
JR: Some players can take constructive criticism, it just makes them play harder. I’m just the type of player, I think it’s with every player, if you beat on it so much its eventually going to fall. At some point he’s gotta just take him in under his wing.

Is it tough to go from being a big high school star on the East Coast, is it tough for a guy like that to adjust to basically anything else? ‘Cause it’s a big, big deal to be a high school star on the East Coast, it’s like nowhere else. How good was that for you?
JR: It was great. It was myself and Sebastian Telfair coming out of the East Coast, so from being huge in the East Coast to going to the NBA where you’re just like a little fish in a big pond. It’s real tough because when you’re from the East Coast and one of the premier guys, you have like a different swagger you carry with yourself. So now when you come to something like this when you’re playing against T-Mac [Tracy McGrady], Kobe, ‘Melo, and LeBron, I mean it’s just totally different.

So you probably see yourself as a starter when training camp opens? With that swagger.
JR: Oh yeah, that’s just an edge that we have on the East Coast. We always think that we’re supposed to get the first crack at it and everything, so, now I just gotta work harder at it.