Powder Blue Isotope
I can't believe how blind I was. To whomever said that the Nuggets are the new Warriors, you're wrong, but onto something. I watched them last night, and still stand by my complaint that this team should have way more edge than it does. And really, wasn't it edge/attitude/intangibles/serrated testicles that allowed the Dubs to push through Dallas like they did?
However, there is a light, and it's one whose familiar glow has at times threatened to burn down my life, or presented itself as that last flicker before the human race goes dark forever. That, my friends, is J.R. Smith. He may never grow up into a solid starter, but in the wake of Stephen Jackson's revenge, I see a new niche for J.R.: Catalytic wild card. Smith has been on a tear lately, which for him means backing up swag with outrageous playmaking, which in turn feeds the swaggering beast. George Karl may deserve to be fired, but at very least be should be commended for letting this petri monster bubble a bit.
So I'd say, why not take off the leash? Make Smith's antics a permanent feature of this team's night-in, night-out identity. Iverson and Melo are perfectly responsible adults now; Martin and Camby, beyond reproach. There's no risk of their backsliding, so why not at least give them a little souvenir of the vitality that goes with irresponsibility? It's the role of a lifetime for the mercurial Smith, and might give the Nuggets the spark they need to, well, stop looking so rote in their scoring explosions.
Look at the kid. Learn and listen. He idolizes you, and probably owes what's left of his NBA career to you. Now, it's his turn to give back, and maybe help himself even more in the process. J.R. Smith is getting free. Let him now lead his Nuggets to a higher plane of unpredictability. The Warriors parallel isn't perfect: Baron is a real point guard, Nellie has a vision, and so on and so forth. All the more reason to think in rareified terms. Nothing changes on the floor, except for the timbre of their output.
There is fun, and there is danger, inside J.R. Smith. When he harnesses these two, he's not a nuisance—he's a self-help guru for a team in need of a jolt. Here's hoping they don't let knowledge get in the way of knowing.
ALERT: I said earlier this season that Al Thornton would be mentioned on here more than any other rookie. Well, I fibbed. I haven't watched the Clippers once, though I see that dude has suddenly started to ignite what's left of the season. So someone, clue me in on Thornton at this level. Is he worth making a priority of? Does he belong in my Five?
Still not sure how I feel about Landry. The Rockets may be the most workmanlike running team ever, even if this might be the most I've enjoyed watching McGrady since 2002-03.
UPDATE: I have a new, highly entertaining column at SLAM.